Nine people associated with Liberty Tax Service were indicted Friday for enticing homeless people and others to file fraudulent tax returns, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said.
The scheme was allegedly perpetrated by the owner and tax preparers of several Liberty Tax franchises in Baltimore, who are charged with generating fraudulent returns that exploited the Earned Income Tax Credit.
According to a joint investigation by the Maryland Comptroller's Office and the Office of the Attorney General, the accused would direct marketing efforts at homeless shelters, transitional housing and drug rehabilitation centers, with a promise of $50 if filers submitted a tax return to be prepared.
The tax preparers would then create a fraudulent return that maximized the credit the filer could receive. The credit is intended to provide extra income to the working poor.
In a typical case, the return would show that the filer was eligible for a combined $620 in federal and state credit. But most of the money, more than $400, would go to the Liberty franchise for filing fees and other charges.
That system was used more than 1,100 times during the 2015 tax season across six franchise locations owned by Lateisha Vanessa Kone, according to the indictments.
According to the indictment, preparers at Liberty Tax generated fees for the franchise owner, and were eligible to receive bonuses based on the number of returns they filed and the amount of the fees they generated.
- Kone, also known as Vanessa Dickens, 35, Baltimore
- Melinda Dawn Ireland, 36, Baltimore
- Sharron Nevada Lawson, 35, Baltimore
- Tiona Renee Davis, 33, Baltimore
- Azucar Janice Lee Johnson, 24, Baltimore
- Whitney Carole Hall, 30, Baltimore
- Marquea Mone Braxton, 35, Baltimore
- Miyarta Shenill Fraling-Gray, 29, Baltimore
- Krystal Marie Perez, also known as Krystal Marie Trejo, 28, Baltimore