File and Let Die

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File and Let Die

A fraudulent tax preparer orders a hit on two former clients to protect his tax scam

The glory age of tax gangsters like Al Capone is long gone. These days it’s very rare that tax-related crime involves anything more exciting than some fraudulent paperwork – which makes this story of a California tax preparer who ordered a hit on two of his former clients all the more extraordinary.

Tax preparer and former IRS agent Steven Martinez allegedly promised a hit man $100,000 to a hit former customers – including an 86 year old woman – who were set to testify against him on charges of fraud.

During his years as a tax preparer Martinez allegedly scammed the IRS out of $11 million. How did he do it? Martinez convinced his clients to deposit the taxes they owed in his bank account, telling them he would pay the IRS when he filed their returns.

Martinez then filed tax returns for them grossly underreporting their income, thus reducing their tax liabilities. He then paid their artificially small tax bills and pocketed the difference, a whopping $11 million.

When his tax fraud scheme was found out, and two of his duped customers tapped to serve as key witnesses at his trial, he decided to up the ante on his criminality, ordering his limousine driver to deliver money to a hit man to have them taken out.

Most tax scams probably won’t feature outlandish plots involving hit men and millions of dollars, but it’s a nice reminder that you should always be vigilant against tax filing scams.

The first thing to do is protect your personal information from identity theft. E-filing is so common nowadays, and so much of our lives is online, it’s easy to forget that you have to protect yourself. Public wi-fi networks are great when you need to kill time at a cafe, but they’re not the best place for doing your taxes. Don’t put your confidential information at risk by filing taxes on public wi-fi. Use an Ethernet cable, or a secure wi-fi network at the very least.

In addition to all of the other horrible stuff identity theft can lead to, it also allows scammers to file a fake tax return in your name and claim your refund. This will make it a lot harder for you to file and get the money you rightfully deserve.

And, as this tale of the homicidal tax preparer amply demonstrates, you have to be wary of fraudulent tax preparers. Don’t file taxes with anyone who doesn’t give you a copy of your tax return, promises you a refund too good to be true, or charges you a percentage of your refund as a fee. Also make sure your tax preparer has a legitimate Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) from the IRS.

Protect yourself and choose your tax preparer well – or you could wind up on the wrong end of a tax preparer hit.

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