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Tax and Mail Fraud Lands Tampa Woman in Federal Prison

A federal judge in Tampa sentenced Shawntrece Sims to nine years in federal prison for tax fraud and mail fraud earlier this month. Sims pleaded guilty last March, admitting to preparing and electronically filing false income tax returns to get tax refunds exceeding $250,000 for 2008.

Sims took identifying information from others and electronically filed dozens of false income tax returns, according to prosecutors. These fraudulent returns claimed income on a Form 1099-Misc. and most listed occupations such as barber, hair stylist, lawn care, and care taker. Sims generated the false returns using tax preparation software, such as Tax Act or Turbo Tax, and then caused the fraudulent returns to be electronically filed with the Internal Revenue Service. Sims admitted to filing at least 44 false tax returns for the 2008 tax year.

After agreeing to cooperate with investigators, Sims remained free on bond while awaiting sentencing. According to authorities, however, she continued filing false tax returns that generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional fraudulently obtained refunds during the first half of 2011. She purportedly filed hundreds of additional fraudulent returns for the 2010 tax year, generating approximately $400,000 in refunds.

Law enforcement claims that Sims was responsible for a total loss of $672,887 to the U.S. Treasury. She was ordered to repay that amount and forfeit any proceeds of her scheme as part of her sentence.

The Sims case was investigated and prosecuted as part of a coordinated effort among the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida, the IRS, the Postal Inspection Service and the Tampa Police Department in an effort to combat the filing of false tax returns in the Tampa Bay region.

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