TRENTON, NJ – A Georgia man admitted to conspiring to defraud the United States by filing false income tax returns and a Union man has previously pleaded guilty to his role in the fraud and awaits sentencing.

Damien Askew, 39, of Union pleaded guilty in June 2017 to conspiracy to defraud the IRS and filing a false federal personal income tax return.  Another member of the conspiracy, Rudolph Sanders, 41, of Newark, pleaded guilty in May 2018 to conspiracy to defraud the IRS.  Both await sentencing.

A former employee of Tax Pro’s and Tax Solutions & Associates, tax preparation businesses located in Essex and Union counties, admitted on Thursday to conspiring to defraud the United States by filing false income tax returns, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

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Tony V. Russell 47, of Stone Mountain, Georgia, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp in Trenton federal court to Count One of an indictment charging him with conspiracy to defraud the IRS.

Two other members of the conspiracy, Joseph Kenny Batts, 49, of Elkridge, Maryland, and Angelo K. Thompson, 38, of Reistertown, Maryland, 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.

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 Pro’s, 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 (PTIN) – 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 Pro’s in April 2015, Batts discontinued Tax Pro’s 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 of approximately $900,000.

The conspiracy charge carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison. The aiding and assisting in the preparation of a false return charge and the filing a false return charge both carry a maximum potential penalty of three years in prison. All offenses carry a statutory maximum fine equal to the greatest of $250,000 or twice the pecuniary gain by the defendant or loss by any victims. Russell’s sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 29, 2018.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Bryant Jackson, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.