TRENTON, NJ — A former employee of Tax Pros and Tax Solutions & Associates, tax preparation businesses located in Essex and Union counties, was sentenced April 29 to four years in prison for conspiring to defraud the United States by filing false income tax returns, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Tony V. Russell, 49, of Stone Mountain, Ga., previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp in Trenton federal court to count one of an indictment charging him with conspiracy to defraud the IRS. Shipp imposed the sentence April 29 in a teleconference proceeding.
Two members of the conspiracy have previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the fraud and await sentencing. Damien Askew, 39, of Union, pleaded guilty June 6, 2017, to conspiracy to defraud the IRS and filing a false federal personal income tax return and is awaiting sentencing. Rudolph Sanders, 41, of Newark, pleaded guilty May 10, 2018, to conspiracy to defraud the IRS and is awaiting sentencing.
Two other members of the conspiracy, Joseph Kenny Batts, 49, of Elkridge, Md., and Angelo K. Thompson, 38, of Reisterstown, Md., were arrested April 17, 2018, on charges of conspiracy to defraud the IRS and aiding and assisting in the preparation of false federal income tax returns. On Aug. 8, 2019, Thompson pleaded guilty before Shipp to count one of an indictment charging him with conspiracy to defraud the IRS, and awaits sentencing. On Sept. 17, 2019, Batts was convicted following a one-week trial before Shipp on one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and five counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false federal income tax returns, and awaits sentencing.
According to documents filed in this and related cases and statements made in court, from at least 2009 to April 2015, Batts was co-owner, along with Askew, of Tax Pros, a tax return preparation and payroll business in Essex County, where Russell, Sanders, Batts, Thompson and Askew prepared tax returns. To boost their business, the defendants conspired to falsify their clients’ federal income tax returns to generate refunds from the IRS in amounts that their clients were not entitled to receive. Russell, Sanders, Batts, Thompson and Askew inflated tax refunds by fabricating and inflating credits for education and childcare; deductions, such as charitable contributions and unreimbursed employee expenses; and business losses.
Russell and other members of the conspiracy also permitted Batts to use their preparer tax identification numbers — the identification number that paid tax preparers are required to place on tax returns they have prepared — when preparing tax returns to conceal Batts’ identity as the actual tax return preparer; Batts had a prior federal tax fraud conviction.
After law enforcement executed a search warrant at Tax Pros in April 2015, Batts discontinued Tax Pros and opened Tax Solutions and Associates in Union, where Russell, Thompson and Batts continued preparing false federal income tax returns. By fraudulently inflating the amounts of the tax refunds, Batts, Askew, Thompson, Russell and Sanders caused a total tax loss to the IRS in excess of $900,000.
In addition to the prison term, Shipp sentenced Russell to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay restitution of $241,185.