NORFOLK, Va. – A Norfolk woman was sentenced today to 33 months in prison for wire fraud and participating in the preparation of over 30 fraudulent income tax returns while she served as the co-owner of a tax preparation service with multiple offices in the Hampton Roads area.
“As the evidence demonstrated at trial, the defendant repeatedly violated her trusted position as a tax preparer and ran a business based on deceptive and duplicitous practices in order to enrich herself,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Tax fraud schemes are serious offenses that deprive our communities of necessary resources, and those who engage in this conduct will be held accountable in EDVA.”
According to court documents and the evidence presented at trial, Nikia Tull, 44, was the co-owner, operator, and manager of YT Phoenix Enterprises, Inc., aka Phoenix Financial Tax Service, a tax preparation service based in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and Suffolk. Between 2014 and 2018, Tull willfully participated in preparing and submitting 33 federal income tax returns to the IRS containing numerous false and fraudulent items. In 2019, Tull continued her fraud by submitting forged and fraudulently altered bank statements to a private lending company in support of loan applications for $70,000.
According to court documents, Tull included a variety of false and fraudulent items on the income tax returns of her clients without their knowledge or consent. Some of the fraudulent items Tull included were residential energy credits, unreimbursed employee expenses, charitable contributions, and business losses. Tull charged her clients based on the number of separate forms filed with each return, so she was able to collect more fees for herself by including the false items and amounts. As a result of Tull’s fraudulent conduct, the IRS suffered a total loss of approximately $230,000.
In addition to defrauding the IRS, Tull also devised a wire fraud scheme aimed at a small business lender in which she submitted materially false and fraudulently altered bank statements in support of online applications for loans of $20,000 and $50,000 for her business.
After a seven-day trial, a federal jury convicted Tull on November 12, 2020 on five counts of wire fraud and 33 counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false and fraudulent income tax returns. As part of her sentencing today, Tull was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $162,460.
Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Darrell J. Waldon, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Washington, D.C. Field Office, IRS-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), made the announcement after sentencing by Senior U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel P. Shean and Joseph L. Kosky prosecuted the case.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:20-cr-9.