Tax preparer gets 12 years for illegally filing tax returns


Date: July 11, 2023


HOUSTON — A local woman has been ordered to federal prison following her convictions on seven counts of aiding and assisting in preparing false tax returns, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

A federal jury sitting in Houston returned a guilty verdict April 3 against Cheryl Christin Kissentaner following a four-day trial.

Today, U.S. District Judge David Hittner ordered her to serve 144 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by one year of supervised release. She was also ordered to pay restitution of $71,180.

At the hearing, the court heard additional evidence describing her history of failing to pay her own personal taxes, civil fraud penalties associated with them and penalties for failing to use due diligence in preparing tax returns.

The total amount Kissentaner owes to the United States from her criminal and civil cases is in excess of $1.9 million. She used some of the monies accrued from the scheme to purchase a Bentley and Maserati as well as for cosmetic surgery. In addition, the court also heard about Kissentaner's violation of her conditions of release and her failure to cooperate with pre-trial services.

"Kissentaner was convicted by a jury for preparing fraudulent tax returns on behalf of her clients and will now spend significant time behind bars," said Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Lucy Tan, of IRS Criminal Investigation's (IRS-CI) Houston Field Office. "She criminally abused her role as a tax return preparer and violated the trust that the American taxpayers have bestowed upon her. We all pay our taxes, but when you decide to cheat, remember, we have a 100-percent conviction rate in our office for criminal tax cases over the past 20 years."

At trial, the jury heard from federal agents as well as five of Kissentaner's clients.

Testimony and evidence revealed individuals paid Kissentaner to prepare tax returns from 2016 through 2019 through her company First Financial Tax Services. However, she was not legally allowed to do so. The jury heard that a paid tax preparer is required to have paid all of his or her own tax returns, but Kissentaner had failed to pay her 2012-2017 tax returns until late 2019. This was after the tax returns she prepared and filed for a fee.

From 2016 through 2019, Kissentaner prepared at least nine tax returns in which she created fake businesses that allegedly operated at losses. They also claimed false fuel tax credits, state income tax deductions for Texas residents (who did not pay a state income tax), false medical expenses, unemployed reimbursement expenses, false contributions to charity, other false expenses for businesses and failed to report IRA distributions.

Kissentaner also claimed that, pursuant to an engagement letter she prepared for her clients, she owed no duty to examine their returns for fake claims. However, Kissentaner filed numerous certificates under oath with the IRS in which she promised the government she would exercise due diligence in examining the tax returns she prepared and filed. She also charged tax preparer fees well in excess of other firms that provided the same services and asked potential clients to identify a reference and offered them a fee if they referred individuals themselves.

At trial, evidence showed that 98 percent of her clients obtained a refund even though several owed as much as $25,000 and did not pay any income taxes throughout the year. One such client had been obtaining a refund in excess of $8,000 each year. However, after Kissentaner became aware she was under investigation, that client was informed she owed over $10,000. When she inquired as to the change, Kissentaner untruthfully claimed that it was due to a change in the tax law and due to the client's son now attending college on a full-time basis.

Further, a large percentage of Kissentaner's clients claimed fuel tax credits despite the fact that only 0.2 percent of all tax payers would be eligible for that benefit.

She has been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

IRS-Criminal Investigation conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Adam Laurence Goldman and Tyler White prosecuted the case.