Anchorage man pleads guilty to false federal tax preparation for Spanish-speaking community members

Published: Nov. 7, 2019 at 12:10 PM AKST
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U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder announced that on Tuesday Jose Luis Arenas, 65, pled guilty to 5 counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false federal individual income tax returns with a clientele primarily of Spanish-speaking members of the Anchorage community, charging them $100 to $600 per return.

Arenas had tax preparation training through H&R Block, but since 2012 has never been a registered tax preparer in Anchorage, Alaska. According to the Plea Agreement, between tax years 2013 and 2016, Arenas consistently failed to indicate that he had filed them as a paid, professional preparer. Instead, the returns appeared to be filed individually by the taxpayers. Arenas would obtain undue tax refunds for his clients by inflating certain Schedule A deductions, particularly medical expenses and charitable giving. Oftentimes, Arenas would fabricate medical expenses, unbeknownst to his clients.

“Shady tax return preparers like this defendant not only steal tax money out of the pockets of all honest citizens, he uses his clients to file false returns, putting them at risk as well,” commented U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder. “We will work closely with our partners at the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation to protect the honest tax payers in Alaska.”

Arenas faces a maximum sentence of 3 years in federal prison, a fine of up to $250,000, 3 years of supervised release, 5 years of probation, and restitution. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed will be based upon the seriousness of the offense and the criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

“Tuesday’s guilty plea of Jose Arenas for preparing false tax returns for his Anchorage clients highlights a common trend among unscrupulous return preparers. They exploit their client’s lack of knowledge or understanding of tax matters for personal gain,” said Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Special Agent in Charge Justin Campbell. “Furthermore, he thought that by concealing his paid preparer status he would be shielded from criminal prosecution. He was wrong and he will be held accountable for his actions.”

The Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) conducted the investigation leading to the charges in this case and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Sayers-Fay.