Greenbelt, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang sentenced Maria Espinal, age 53, of Montgomery Village, Maryland, yesterday to 27 months in federal prison, followed by one year of supervised release, for aiding and assisting in filing false tax returns and for aggravated identity theft. Judge Chuang also ordered Espinal to pay restitution in the amount of $106,066.
The sentence was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner; Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division; Acting Special Agent in Charge Darrell J. Waldon of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office; and Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Maria Espinal owned and operated a tax return preparation business located in Gaithersburg, Maryland. From 2011 through 2017, Maria Espinal prepared and filed fraudulent tax returns on behalf of her clients with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Comptroller of Maryland that claimed tax refunds to which the clients were not entitled. To generate a fraudulent refund, Espinal altered legitimate Forms W-2 in the names of third parties and replaced the third party’s name with her client’s name. As a result, her client claimed the third-party’s withholdings as his or her own, which generated fraudulent tax refunds.
In addition, Espinal displayed a sign on her office wall that read in Spanish “If you have lost your [identification] number or passport we have these people” and which listed the identifying information for several individuals. Espinal used the personal identifying information for one of those individuals to obtain a fraudulent refund on behalf of another client. Espinal also filed a tax return using another individual’s personal identifying information to generate a fraudulent refund that Espinal deposited into her own personal bank account.
Acting U.S. Attorney Lenzner and Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg thanked IRS – Criminal Investigation and the Office of the Comptroller of Maryland for their work in the investigation, and commended Assistant United States Attorney Erin Pulice and Carl Brooker, formerly a Trial Attorney with the Tax Division and now an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of California, who prosecuted the case.
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