Two Durham, North Carolina, return preparers pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Department of Justice’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Matthew G.T. Martin of the Middle District of North Carolina.
According to court documents, Karen Marie Jones owned Jones and Stone Taxes, a tax preparation business in Durham. From 2012 through 2016, Jones and another return preparer at Jones and Stone, Audrey Renetta Odom, conspired to falsify tax returns by fabricating education expenses, among other items, in an effort to inflate refunds paid to their clients by the IRS. The co-conspirators charged some clients up to $2,000 for preparing each return. In total, the defendants caused a tax loss to the IRS of more than $1.2 million.
Odom pleaded guilty on Dec. 2, 2020, and U.S. District Judge William L. Osteen Jr. has scheduled a sentencing for Feb. 19, 2021. Previously, Jones pleaded guilty on Nov. 5, 2020, and U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Eagles has scheduled a sentencing for Feb. 25, 2021. Jones and Odom each face a maximum sentence of five years in prison for conspiracy. The defendants also face a period of supervised release, restitution, and monetary penalties.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Zuckerman and U.S. Attorney Martin commended special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation who conducted the investigation, and Assistant Chief Todd Ellinwood and Trial Attorney Kavitha Bondada of the Tax Division, who are prosecuting the case.
Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found on the division’s website.