Greenbelt, Maryland – Veronica Hope Fortune, age 54, of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to defraud the United States and to assisting in the preparation and filing of false tax returns.
The guilty plea was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner; Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division; and Acting Special Agent in Charge Darrell Waldon of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office.
According to Fortune’s plea agreement, in August 2015 Fortune was a tax preparer in Maryland with electronic tax return filing privileges from the Internal Revenue System (IRS). Fortune agreed to allow Co-Conspirator 1 and Co-Conspirator 2, both of whom had been suspended from the IRS’s e-filing program, to use Fortune’s unique electronic filing identifiers, in exchange for the use of Co-Conspirator 1 and Co-Conspirator 2’s shared office space in Temple Hills, Maryland.
Co-Conspirator 1 and Co-Conspirator 2 misrepresented their identities on their clients’ tax returns by using Fortune’s identifiers to prepare and electronically file the tax returns with the IRS. Fortune also joined in her co-conspirators’ practice of falsifying tax returns and fraudulently claiming refunds. Specifically, Fortune and her co-conspirators falsified tax returns by: fabricating, inflating, and improperly claiming items on the Schedules A that were attached to clients’ federal individual income tax returns; and engineering business losses on Schedules C by fabricating, inflating, and improperly claiming purported business expenses. As a result, Fortune, Co-Conspirator 1, and Co-Conspirator 2 artificially lowered their clients’ taxable income, thereby lowering the taxes that the clients owed to the IRS and inflating their refunds.
On December 15, 2017, the IRS also expelled Fortune from the electronic tax return filing program due to a criminal investigation into fraudulent tax returns filed using her unique identifiers. Fortune then made misrepresentations about the criminal nature of her issues with the IRS to a third-party electronic return originator (“ERO”) in order to obtain their assistance. The ERO allowed Fortune to file tax returns using its unique electronic filing identifiers, and Fortune shared those identifiers with Co-Conspirator 1 and Co-Conspirator 2. Using the new identifiers, the co-conspirators, including Fortune, continued to prepare and file false and fraudulent returns through at least the 2019 tax filing season, which ended on or about April 2019.
In total, the tax loss caused to the IRS as a direct result of Fortune and her co-conspirators’ conspiracy for the tax years 2012 through 2018 was $189,748. As part of her plea agreement, Fortune will be required to pay restitution in the full amount of the loss, which the parties stipulate is at least $189,748.
Fortune faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison for the conspiracy and a maximum of three years in federal prison for aiding and assisting in the preparation and filing of false tax returns. U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm has scheduled sentencing for August 20, 2021.
Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner commended the IRS-Criminal Investigation for its work in the investigation. Mr. Lenzner thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Leah Grossi and Trial Attorney Kathryn Sparks of the Tax Division, who are prosecuting the case.
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