Baton Rouge tax preparer Ronald Wayne Wilkerson, 42, was convicted Tuesday on 22 counts of bank fraud, assisting the preparation of false tax returns, impeding the Internal Revenue Service and money laundering.
A jury of seven women and five men announced the decision in the two-week trial after approximately four hours of deliberations. A 23rd charge was dismissed at the request of prosecutors before trial.
“We believe justice has been served in this case,” U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. said.
But Todd S. Clemons, attorney for Wilkerson, said: “I’m very disappointed in the verdict. I respect the jury. I definitely think they did their best. I just don’t think the government proved my client misused” tax credits and deductions alleged to have been fraudulent.
Clemons said he expects Wilkerson to appeal the conviction after his sentencing.
Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson scheduled sentencing for Sept. 13. Jackson allowed Wilkerson to remain free on bond pending that hearing.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rene I. Salomon and Leetra J. Harris told jurors Monday to ignore Clemons’ argument that some of Wilkerson’s clients and some of his employees committed any and all crimes discovered at Wilkerson Tax Service.
“The fact is that Ronald Wilkerson owned and operated Wilkerson Tax Service,” Harris argued. “He was an active owner. He was looking over employees’ shoulders. He did it all.”
On the day that IRS agents began searching and seizing documents and computers at Wilkerson’s office in March 2007, Harris told jurors, Wilkerson went to his bank and withdrew $360,000. Harris said the withdrawal was in the form of 40 checks, each in the amount of $9,000 and each payable to Wilkerson.
“That’s money laundering,” Harris told jurors.
At one point, Clemons conceded Wilkerson was culpable in an indirect way for some problems at his tax service.
“I admit the defendant is guilty,” Clemons told jurors. “He is guilty of running a very sloppy operation.”
But Clemons insisted Wilkerson was unaware that his employees inflated credits and deductions for his clients.
Salomon, advised jurors not to forget that HSBC Bank lost more than $500,000 in refund anticipation loans granted to Wilkerson’s clients. Salomon said bank officials granted those loans on the basis of false tax returns supplied by Wilkerson.
Salomon also told jurors that Wilkerson did not file his personal tax returns for 2005, 2006 and 2007. And he said the IRS lost more than $119,000 because of false tax returns prepared by Wilkerson’s staff under his direction.
The prosecutor noted that Wilkerson falsely identified his mother as owner of 95 percent of his business. Salomon said that meant Wilkerson’s mother was the first in IRS agents’ line of sight when they targeted Wilkerson Tax Service.
“Mr. Wilkerson’s trail of crumbs lead right back to him,” Salomon said. “He’s in this on his own. It’s not his mother.”