A federal grand jury in Orlando returned an indictment, unsealed yesterday, charging three Florida men with crimes related to their respective roles in a tax refund fraud scheme.
According to the indictment, from 2015 to 2018, Christopher Johnson, of Orlando, and Jasen Harvey, of Tampa, allegedly conspired to promote a scheme in which Harvey and others prepared returns for clients falsely reporting large amounts of income tax withholdings to the IRS, resulting in tax refunds to which the clients were not otherwise entitled. Johnson and Harvey allegedly charged each client a fee per return – Johnson allegedly did not report his portion of those fees on his personal tax returns.
The indictment also charged that in January 2020, a federal judge issued an order enjoining Harvey from preparing tax returns for others but, despite the court’s injunction, Harvey allegedly continued to prepare and file returns from 2020 to 2021.
In addition, the indictment alleges that Arthur Grimes, of Orlando and Ocoee, Florida, participated in the scheme and caused to be filed four false income tax returns prepared by Harvey. When the IRS attempted to recover a refund allegedly issued to Grimes based on a false income tax return, Grimes allegedly (1) made false statements to an IRS revenue officer, (2) submitted false documents to the IRS, (3) transferred funds to a nominee bank account and (4) otherwise obstructed IRS collection efforts.
Johnson, Harvey and Grimes are each charged with aiding in the preparation of false tax returns, which carries a maximum statutory penalty of three years in prison; Johnson and Harvey are charged with conspiring to defraud the United States, which carries a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison; Johnson is charged with filing false personal tax returns, which carries a maximum statutory penalty of three years in prison; Harvey is charged with criminal contempt, which carries a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison; and Grimes is charged with corruptly endeavoring to obstruct the due administration of the internal revenue laws, which carries a maximum statutory penalty of three years. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg for the Middle District of Florida made the announcement.
IRS-Criminal Investigation is investigating the case.
Trial Attorneys Melissa Siskind, Jeffrey McLellan and Caroline Pearson of the Tax Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane Hu for the Middle District of Florida are prosecuting the case.