Local Tax Preparation Franchise Owner, 4 Tax Preparers Indicted On Tax Conspiracy Charges | Crime
St. Louis, MO - Jimi Clark, owner of a Mo' Money Tax franchise and four of his tax preparers were indicted on charges of falsely claiming educational tax credits on 47 returns. The American Opportunity Credit (AO Credit) allows certain taxpayers with educational expenses to take a refundable credit on their income taxes.
According to the indictment, Jimi Clark oversaw the preparation of tax returns at his franchise, addressed specific questions about returns as they arose, and generally supervised all preparers working in his franchise including his co-defendants. Justin Buford, Leslie Chaney, Ray Reed and Mary Taylor.
The indictment also alleges that the defendants were trained on educational tax credits including the American Opportunity Credit (AO Credit). Clark allegedly abused the AO Credit program at the Mo' Money franchise during the 2009 filing season to attract and keep clients. These defendants allegedly filed at least 47 returns with false and inflated AO Credit line items. On the vast majority of the line items on which AO Credits were claimed on the false returns, the defendants claimed exactly $3,765 in qualified education expenses. Out of 494 tax returns prepared for the 2009 tax year at Clark’s franchise, more than half, 288 returns, claimed AO credits. On each of the 47 returns, the taxpayers did not incur the educational expenses claimed and were, therefore, not entitled to AO credits. Defendants Chaney, Reed and Buford went so far as to false claim educational expenses on their personal 2009 returns. The tax loss to the United States on just the 47 returns listed in the indictment exceeds $50,000.
"We want everyone who files a tax return to take advantage of the credits to which they are entitled by law; however, claiming phony credits to enrich themselves defrauds the government and the taxpaying public," said Stephen Boyd, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation.
Jimi Clark, 57, of Memphis, Tennessee; Justin Buford, 26, of Memphis, Tennessee; Leslie Chaney, 43, of St. Louis; Ray Reed, 38, of St. Louis; and Mary Taylor, 48, of Memphis, Tennessee, were indicted by a federal grand jury on one felony count each of conspiracy to commit tax fraud. The indictment was returned October 10th, but remained sealed until the arrest of the defendants today by IRS Special Agents in St. Louis and Memphis.
If convicted, this charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000. In determining the actual sentences, a Judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges. Restitution to the United States is also mandatory.