Date: January 24, 2020
A federal grand jury in New Orleans, Louisiana, returned an indictment today charging three Louisiana residents with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, 14 counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of a fraudulent tax return, three counts of wire fraud, and three counts of aggravated identity theft.
According to the indictment, throughout 2015, Morgan Antoine, Jennifer Austin, and Brittany Patterson conspired to file false tax returns for clients of Pelican Income Tax and Payroll Service, a tax preparation business located in Kenner and Westwego, Louisiana. The coconspirators allegedly prepared client returns reporting false income, false withholdings, and false dependents, in order to cause the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to pay inflated refunds. The indictment further alleges that the coconspirators charged fees as high as $1,100 for preparing tax returns, which they often deducted from the clients' refunds.
The indictment also charges that to conceal their involvement in the fraud, the coconspirators filed returns in the name of a third party whose personal identifying information was stolen. Finally, the indictment alleges that Antoine and Patterson each falsified their own personal returns claiming false dependents.
If convicted, Antoine, Austin, and Patterson each face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison for the conspiracy charge and three years for each count of aiding and assisting in the preparation of a fraudulent tax return. Antoine and Patterson face an additional twenty years in prison for each count of wire fraud and a two-year mandatory minimum for each count of aggravated identity theft. They also face a period of supervised release, restitution, and monetary penalties.
IRS-Criminal Investigation conducted the investigation and Assistant U.S. Attorney Carter Guice, Trial Attorneys Lauren Castaldi, and Jessica Kraft of the Tax Division, are prosecuting this case.