Woman pleads guilty to falsifying tax returns

August 18, 2010 1:50:05 PM PDT
A Rodeo woman who was a manager for the national tax preparation chain Jackson Hewitt has pleaded guilty to aiding and assisting in the filing of false income tax returns, resulting in a tax loss to the U.S. government of $165,000.

Lydia Johnson, 51, had been indicted on 20 counts of filing false tax returns on Oct. 22, 2009, and entered her guilty plea to four counts in U.S. District Court in Oakland on Friday, according to U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag's office.

Prosecutors said that in her guilty plea, Johnson admitted she began preparing tax returns for Jackson Hewitt in about 2002 worked there until 2007, winning a promotion to manager before the 2005 tax season.

She then began preparing taxes from her home in 2008 after her employment at Jackson Hewitt ended.

According to her plea agreement, between 2005 and 2008, which corresponds to tax years 2004 through 2007, Johnson prepared and filed at least 52 federal income tax returns that she knew were false.

The U.S. Attorney's office said she didn't ask for supporting documentation for certain exemptions, deductions or credits and instead created false exemptions, deductions and credits.

Prosecutors said that among those actions, Johnson filed false deductions for thousands of dollars of home mortgage interest and points for a client whom she knew didn't have any documentation of home ownership and didn't have any documentation of a mortgage.

They also said she filed false deductions for thousands of dollars of medical and dental expenses when she had no documentation to believe that the client had actually incurred those expenses.

In addition, the U.S. Attorney's office said Johnson filed false deductions for both monetary and non-monetary gifts to charity when she had no documentation to believe that the client had actually incurred those expenses.

Prosecutors said she also filed false deductions for job and miscellaneous expenses, including claiming a deduction for a safe deposit box even though she had no documentation to believe the client even had a safe deposit box.

Johnson, who isn't in custody, is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 3.

The maximum sentence for each count of filing false tax returns is three years in prison and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution if appropriate.

Jackson Hewitt, which is based in Parsippany, N.J., has 6,400 offices in the U.S., according to the company's web site.

It's the second-largest tax preparation firm in the country, according to Wikipedia.


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