Crime - Sacto 911

Second El Dorado Hills woman pleads guilty in huge tax fraud

The second of two El Dorado Hills women accused of carrying out a massive tax refund scheme has pleaded guilty in federal court in Sacramento.

Sherry Taggart, 56, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiring to file false claims and filing false claims, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office news release. Her co-conspirator, Barbara Antonucci, pleaded guilty to the charges in August.

According to court documents, Taggart and Antonucci, an unlicensed tax preparer, prepared tax returns for clients seeking to maximize their refunds from the Internal Revenue Service. In 2008, Antonucci began a scheme to obtain false refunds by preparing and filing false claims on behalf of clients with the IRS. Taggart joined in the scheme after May 2010, prosecutors said, and together she and Antonucci conspired to prepare and file hundreds of false claims with the IRS between June 2012 and March 2014, seeking refunds totaling approximately $1.4 million.

As a result of the conspiracy, the IRS issued more than $757,000 in illegitimate refunds. In total, including the period in which Antonucci operated the scheme by herself, the IRS issued more than $1.8 million in illegitimate refunds from more than $2.5 million bogus claims filed during the scheme, authorities said.

The fraudulent returns reported false wages and dependents for Taggart and Antonucci’s clients and, in many cases, qualified the clients for the refundable earned-income credit when the client’s true wages or family situation would have qualified the client for a lower credit or no credit. Most of the fraudulent returns listed wages associated with self-employment, such as “housekeeper,” not documented by a Form W-2.

The defendants obtained the names, Social Security numbers and other personal identifying information of minors and falsely listed them as dependents on tax returns for clients who were not related to the minors. Taggart and Antonucci also filed false claims on their own behalf, authorities said. The women filed the false tax returns with the IRS through the mail and via the internet from Sacramento, Yuba and Placer counties.

Taggart is to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. on Dec. 9. Antonucci is to be sentenced by Burrell on Dec. 2.

The case resulted from an investigation by the IRS, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy