An El Dorado Hills woman has been sentenced to three years and six months in prison for her role in a tax refund scheme involving more than $1.8 million in illegitimate refunds.
Barbara Antonucci, an unlicensed tax preparer, was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr., who also ordered her to pay $1,895,833 in restitution for conspiring to file false claims and filing false claims, according to a U.S. attorney’s office news release. Antonucci pleaded guilty to the charges in August. She was ordered to surrender and begin serving her sentence Feb. 17.
Antonucci’s co-conspirator, Sherry Taggart, also of El Dorado Hills, pleaded guilty to the same charges in September and is to be sentenced this Friday.
According to court documents, Antonucci and Taggart 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.
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Taggart joined in the scheme after May 2010, prosecutors said, and together the women 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 in bogus claims filed during the scheme, authorities said.
The fraudulent returns reported false wages and dependents for Antonucci and Taggart’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. Antonucci and Taggart 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.
The case resulted from an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation, the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.