Date: April 29, 2020
TRENTON, N.J. – A former employee of Tax Pro's and Tax Solutions & Associates, tax preparation businesses located in Essex and Union counties, was sentenced today to 48 months in prison for conspiring to defraud the United States by filing false income tax returns.
Tony V. Russell of Stone Mountain, Georgia previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp in Trenton federal court to Count One of an indictment charging him with conspiracy to defraud the IRS. Judge Shipp imposed the sentence today in a teleconference proceeding.
Two members of the conspiracy have previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the fraud and await sentencing. Damien Askew of Union, New Jersey pleaded guilty June 6, 2017, to conspiracy to defraud the IRS and filing a false federal personal income tax return and is awaiting sentencing. Rudolph Sanders of Newark, New Jersey pleaded guilty May 10, 2018, to conspiracy to defraud the IRS and is awaiting sentencing.
Two other members of the conspiracy, Joseph Kenny Batts of Elkridge, Maryland and Angelo K. Thompson of Reistertown, Maryland were arrested April 17, 2018, on charges of conspiracy to defraud the IRS and aiding and assisting in the preparation of false federal income tax returns. On Aug. 8, 2019, Thompson pleaded guilty before Judge Shipp to Count One of an indictment charging him with conspiracy to defraud the IRS, and awaits sentencing. On Sept. 17, 2019, Batts was convicted following a one-week trial before Judge Shipp on one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and five counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false federal income tax returns, and awaits sentencing.
According to documents filed in this and related cases and statements made in court:
From at least 2009 to April 2015, Batts was co-owner, along with Askew, of Tax Pro's, a tax return preparation and payroll business in Essex County, where Russell, Sanders, Batts, Thompson, and Askew prepared tax returns. To boost their business, the defendants conspired to falsify their clients' federal income tax returns to generate refunds from the IRS in amounts that their clients were not entitled to receive. Russell, Sanders, Batts, Thompson, and Askew inflated tax refunds by fabricating and inflating credits for education and childcare; deductions, such as charitable contributions and unreimbursed employee expenses; and business losses.
Russell and other members of the conspiracy also permitted Batts to use their Preparer Tax Identification Numbers (PTIN) – the identification number that paid tax preparers are required to place on tax returns they have prepared – when preparing tax returns to conceal Batts' identity as the actual tax return preparer; Batts had a prior federal tax fraud conviction.
After law enforcement executed a search warrant at Tax Pro's in April 2015, Batts discontinued Tax Pro's and opened Tax Solutions and Associates in Union, where Russell, Thompson, and Batts continued preparing false federal income tax returns. By fraudulently inflating the amounts of the tax refunds, Batts, Askew, Thompson, Russell, and Sanders caused a total tax loss to the IRS in excess of $900,000.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Shipp sentenced Russell to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay restitution of $241,185.
Special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Laura J. Perry conducted the investigation leading to today's sentencing.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Cari Fais and Jihee Suh of the Special Prosecutions Division.