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June 19, 2018

California Tax Preparer Pleads Guilty in Embezzlement Scheme

On April 11, 2018, in the Central District of California, tax preparer David Laskey was charged with, and pled guilty to, wire fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud a client.

According to the court documents, Laskey was a tax preparer and consultant in Lake Forest, California. Laskey, knowingly and with intent to defraud, devised and executed a scheme to obtain money by means of false representations and fraudulent and deceptive acts.

Specifically, the victim hired Laskey to prepare her tax returns and to handle her outstanding tax matters. Laskey told the victim that if she paid a lump sum of $22,453 to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that she would receive a penalty abatement of approximately $10,000. He further told her that the IRS preferred multiple money orders instead of a cashier's check. Using her 401K funds, the victim obtained 22 money orders for $1,000 each, plus one for $453, and gave them to Laskey, who promised to overnight them to the IRS.

In furtherance of his scheme, Laskey then informed the victim via e-mail that he had also sent the penalty abatement request to the IRS. Subsequently, Laskey showed her a letter on IRS letterhead, which he had forged, purporting to be from Operations Manager Laura Fulmer and stating that the IRS had received her payment. The next day, Laskey called the victim from an unknown number, purporting to be Agent Coulsen from the IRS, confirming that the IRS had received the penalty abatement request, and stating that it would be processed in six weeks. A day or two later, Laskey placed another call to the victim, again from an unknown number, purporting to be IRS Operations Manager Laura Fulmer and stating that she was going on vacation and would call back when she returned.

In reality, Laskey did not use the victim's funds to pay the IRS, nor did he ever file for a penalty abatement. Instead, he used the victim's funds for his own personal use.

After agents of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) contacted Laskey regarding these matters, he approached the victim and told her that if she signed a promissory note stating that the $22,453 was a personal loan, he would repay her the money. He further instructed his attorney to e-mail the signed promissory note to TIGTA agents in an attempt to willfully obstruct TIGTA's investigation.

Laskey could face a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years' imprisonment.

    Source:  The facts in this case narrative come from court documents of the respective jurisdiction.