In an effort to draw attention to tax fraud and the state's efforts to combat it as tax season begins, Attorney General Brian E. Frosh and Comptroller Peter Franchot on Thursday announced charges against four people who allegedly stole tens of thousands of dollars in tax fraud schemes.
The four cases represent more than $153,700 in fraudulent tax refunds.
The charges, announced at a news conference Thursday in Baltimore, come as Franchot seeks legislation that would give his office greater authority to investigate cases against people caught filing fraudulent returns.
The number of fraudulent tax returns blocked from being paid by the comptroller's office skyrocketed from 314 in 2007 to 19,150 in 2015, before falling to 13,052 in 2016. The comptroller's office attributed the drop to more cases of potential tax fraud being prevented from even filing.
While the comptroller's office has become more adept at detecting and preventing payments for fraudulent returns, the proportion of them that are prosecuted is "slim to nothing," Franchot said.
"This is a very, very, very important step forward for the state of Maryland," Franchot said of the cases announced Thursday.
Franchot and Frosh vowed to continue pursuing cases of tax fraud and said they hope publicity about the newly announced cases would put criminals and taxpayers on notice.
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"All of us are victims of these crimes," Frosh said. "Everyone who works hard and pays taxes and does it honestly suffers when somebody else tries to cheat our state, cheat our government."
None of the people charged have a lawyer listed, and none could be reached for comment Thursday.
•Rochelle Cunningham, 46, of Baltimore is charged with one count of felony theft scheme between $10,000 and $100,000, and 10 counts of identity fraud. The state alleges that between March 2005 and April 2009 Cunningham used personal identifying information from multiple victims to file fraudulent tax returns and received more than $80,000.
•Darwin Acosta, 30, of Prince George's County is charged with one count of felony theft scheme between $10,000 and $100,000, and one count of identity fraud. The state alleges that between March and June 2014 Acosta used personal identifying information of multiple victims to file fraudulent tax returns and received $53,700 in fraudulent refunds.
•Scott Jacobson, 38, of Baltimore County is charged with 13 counts of false return preparation, theft and attempted theft, and filing a false personal income tax return. The state alleges that during the 2014 tax season, Jacobson operated a tax return business through which he filed fraudulent returns for clients that claimed inflated tax refunds. He allegedly received $10,000 in state tax refunds through the scheme. The state declined to name Jacobson's business.
•Evelyn Thompson, 54, of Prince George's County is charged with one count of felony theft scheme between $10,000 and $100,000. The state alleges that between January 2014 and April 2016 Thompson, who is not a licensed tax preparer in Maryland, filed tax returns on behalf of clients using false information that increased the refunds her clients would receive. Thompson also charged fees for her tax filing services that she did not report on her own tax returns and used false information to inflate her tax refund, the case alleges.