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3 Indictments Charge More Than A Dozen With Tax Fraud, Identity Theft

LOS ANGELES ( — Indictments were announced Thursday against more than a dozen Inland Empire income tax return preparers and associates charged with fraudulently seeking millions of dollars in tax refunds.

Three indictments were returned in recent weeks by federal grand juries in Los Angeles and Riverside counties, alleging that 13 defendants filed fraudulent tax returns and used stolen identities to seek millions of dollars in tax refunds, according to Justice Department and the IRS' Criminal Investigation officials.

The first case involves two Moreno Valley businesses, Total Tax Preparations Inc. and Nancy L. Olson & Associates, both owned by 68-year-old Nancy L. Hilton, who surrendered to authorities Tuesday. The 25-count indictment also named Denise Gray, 53; Barbara J. Connor, 56; Kawasaki D. Morris, 34; Michael J. White, 54; Staff Voundy II, 51; and Vincent Voundy, 46.

curtis d lowe
Curtis D. Lowe (credit: IRS Criminal Investigation)

Most of the defendants have either surrendered to authorities or are being summoned to appear for arraignment. Morris was arrested Monday night in Las Vegas and has been ordered to appear in federal court on Feb. 14, while an eighth suspect – 27-year-old Curtis D. Lowe – is being sought by authorities. Trial for those in custody in this case is scheduled to begin on April 1.

Hilton, Gray, Connor, Lowe and Morris were all charged with conspiring to submit false tax returns that inflated their income, dependents and expenses related to self-employment. In some cases, the tax returns would use a person's identifying information without their knowledge or consent, according to the indictment, with refunds sent by direct deposit or wire transfer to bank accounts Hilton and her co-conspirators controlled.

Three more people linked to the Hilton scheme pleaded guilty last fall to federal tax fraud violations. Carmen Luera, 52, and her two sons – Alfonso Luera, 30, and Sergio Luera, 28, pleaded guilty to federal tax charges and have agreed to never again prepare federal income tax returns for anyone other than themselves and their spouses. The Lueras are scheduled to be sentenced later this year.

According to Carmen Luera's plea agreement, the Hilton tax scheme sought nearly $2.9 million in fraudulent tax refunds for the 2008 tax year. The total amount of refunds paid by the IRS based on those fraudulent returns was about $1.35 million.

A second indictment charged 50-year-old John Metters with 21 counts of making false claims against the United States government, 16 counts of theft of government property and 16 counts of aggravated identity theft. The indictment alleges Metters filed tax returns with the IRS that sought fraudulent refunds of more than $265,000 for tax years 2007 through 2010.

The final indictment named Claudia Diane Cox, 42, the owner of two San Bernardino companies – New Beginnings Re-Entry CCC,Inc. and Inland Valley Paralegal & Financial Service Inc. Cox was charged with one count of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, three counts of submitting false claims against the United States government and nine counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns. According to the indictment, Cox prepared tax returns for more than 250 people and made fraudulent tax refunds and claims totaling more than $1 million for the 2007 and 2008 tax years.


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