The owner of a tax preparation service in East St. Louis was charged in federal court there Tuesday for his role in a scheme to file false income tax refunds on behalf of clients in exchange for fees and tips.
An announcement from Southern Illinois U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton’s office stated Eyob Tilahun, who owns Tax King locations in St. Louis and East St. Louis, faces charges of conspiracy to make false claims against the government and aiding and abetting the filing of false tax returns.
Tilahun and co-conspirator Mason B. Richmond allegedly trained the tax preparers they employed to boost the amount of tax refund money clients could receive by falsely inflating business income, falsely inflating earned wages, falsely reporting education expenses and falsely recording fuel taxes paid. Tax King earned between $400 and $650 for each false claim made and the individual preparers who made the claims earned between $100 to $1,000 in cash tips from the clients.
Five of those preparers who worked in East St. Louis already have been charged. They are Edric A. Russell, Lakesha R. Wilson, Melissa L. Wiley, Tanesa L. Beverly and Pierre J. Carter. Both Beverly and Wiley have pleaded guilty. Cases against the others are still pending.
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The charge of conspiring to submit false claims is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and probation. Each count of filing a false claim carries a maximum three-year prison term, similar fines and probation.