A former Van Nuys tax preparer, who fled to Colombia after he was indicted in 2003, was sentenced today to 18 months in federal prison for filing dozens of false tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service.
Rene R. Lopez, 61, the former operator of Lopez & Associates Business Consultants, was also ordered by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner to pay restitution of $114,467 to the IRS.
Lopez pleaded guilty in April to one of the counts charging him with presenting a false claim to the IRS. The count related to the filing of a fraudulent 2000 income tax return claiming a refund of $2,765.
However, according to documents filed with the court, from 1998 through 2001, Lopez prepared and filed at least 85 fraudulent income tax returns with the IRS claiming $130,797 in false income tax refunds.
Lopez submitted the false returns in the names of his clients without their knowledge, and kept the fraudulent refund amounts for himself, according to the IRS and federal prosecutors.
To facilitate the deception, Lopez provided his clients with dummy returns that made it appear as if their tax liabilities had been correctly reported to the IRS. After a refund check was issued by the Treasury Department based on the second fraudulent return, Lopez would issue his client a cashier's check for the correct amount of their federal income tax refund, and keep the larger fraudulent refund check for himself, according to court documents.
After 10 years outside the country, Lopez returned to the United States and surrendered to IRS authorities in February.
--City News Service