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DA: Tax Preparers Arrested For Falsifying Tax Returns, Grand Larceny

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced Feb. 24 that five Nassau County tax preparers at franchises for two of the country’s oldest and largest tax return preparation companies have been arrested and charged with falsifying tax returns and grand larceny. The arrests are the result of a year-long, joint investigation between the Nassau County DA’s Office and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.

“The five people arrested as a result of this investigation should serve as an example to tax preparers and accountants everywhere,” Rice said. “Anyone who attempts to defraud honest taxpayers by violating the law will be caught, arrested, and held accountable.”

Sherrece Durrant-Gardner, 34, of Hempstead, was arrested by DA Investigators and charged with Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree. Rice said that from 2006 to 2010, Durrant-Gardner worked as a tax preparer for Jackson-Hewitt in Roosevelt. Two other employees at the same Jackson-Hewitt franchise were also arrested. Donna Giordano, 33, of Freeport, and Marchia Purdie, 42, of Hempstead, were both charged with Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree and Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree.

Two tax preparers at R&G Brenner in Valley Stream and Elmont were also arrested after preparing false returns for undercover investigators from NYSDTF. Brian Kelly, 42, of Lake Grove, was charged with Attempted Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree and Attempted Criminal Tax Fraud in the Third Degree. John Ferolito, 54, of Westbury, was charged with Attempted Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree and Attempted Criminal Tax Fraud in the Third Degree.

DA: Tips to Avoid Being Victimized

To avoid being victimized by a tax preparer, follow these simple tips:

• Remember that many tax preparer services are franchised. If there are any problems with the preparer, call the corporate headquarters.

• Read your return. Make sure your financial situation is accurately represented.

• A paid preparer is required by law to sign the return and fill in the preparer areas of the form. Avoid preparers who will not sign your return.

• Never sign a blank return, and never sign in pencil.

• If e-filing, make sure preparer is an “authorized IRS e-file provider.” All tax preparers must register with the IRS and New York State in order to e-file returns. You can check this by going to the IRS website.

• If your preparer e-files, make sure you are shown a copy of the return and are provided with a hard copy of the return being e-filed before it is filed.

• If the preparer e-files your return before showing you and/or does not provide you with a copy, you should contact the corporate headquarters if the tax preparer is a franchise.

• Avoid a preparer who charges fees based on a percentage of your return.

• Some preparers offer immediate payments of refunds for a fee. Keep in mind that this is a loan and there is a fee for such a service.

• Understand that reputable preparers will ask to see receipts and will ask multiple questions to understand your qualifications for expenses, deductions and other items.

• Can the preparer be reached during the year? In the event there is an audit, he will need to be reachable.

• Assistant District Attorney April Montgomery of the Economic Crimes Bureau is prosecuting the cases for the DA’s Office.

The DA states that the charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.