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Tax preparer pleads guilty in identity theft and tax fraud scheme

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Oakland Park tax preparer Louis A. Francois pled guilty Thursday to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft, according to United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Wifredo A. Ferrer.

Francois, 44, of Margate, is scheduled to be sentenced on June 5th before U.S. District Court Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks. He faces a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison for the wire fraud charge and a mandatory term of two years in prison - consecutive to any other term in prison - for the aggravated identity theft charge.

According to court documents, Francois owned and operated a tax preparation business called A&I Multi Services (A&I) located in Oakland Park. Francois stole personal identifying information of various individuals, including their names, dates of birth, social security numbers, and addresses, for the purpose of filing fraudulent U.S. income tax returns claiming tax refunds in those individuals’ names.

Subsequently, Francois printed out refund checks payable to the persons whose personal information was used at A&I. The checks were in the amount of the fraudulently obtained tax refunds minus Francois’ “tax preparation” fees and other fees. The “tax preparation” fees were deposited into Francois’ bank account. Francois went to a check cashing store located next door to A&I with the fraudulently obtained tax refund checks and fraudulent Florida driver's licenses matching the stolen identities on the checks and cashed them.

From July 2010 through June 2011, the total amount of U.S. Treasury checks cashed by Francois and the total amount of fraudulent refunds requested by Francois is approximately $355,000. The number of victims involved is greater than ten, but fewer than fifty.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI and the Secret Service. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Alicia E. Shick.

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