Former tax preparer Ronald Wayne Wilkerson was sentenced Wednesday in Baton Rouge to nearly eight years in federal prison for his jury conviction on bank fraud, tax fraud and money laundering charges.
Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson ordered Wilkerson, 42, to forfeit $470,000 in seized assets and pay the federal government another $485,939 in profits he received as a result of his crimes. The judge also ordered Wilkerson to pay $500,959 to HSBC Bank for losses the bank suffered after granting refund-anticipation loans to 250 of Wilkerson’s clients, whose fraudulent refund claims were rejected by the IRS.
“Taxpayers should be very selective in choosing a (tax) return preparer,” Jim Lee, special agent-in-charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation field office in New Orleans, said in a statement after Wilkerson’s sentencing. “Return preparer fraud is like a contagious disease; it affects the preparer, the individuals who have filed false information with the Internal Revenue Service, and the banking institutions that provide refund products to the clients.”
U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. called attention to Jackson’s finding that Wilkerson, through his Wilkerson Tax Service, damaged his clients’ credit reports by causing them, through his frauds, to owe money to both the IRS and HSBC.
“Diverting taxpayer monies to the benefit of corrupt tax preparers will not be tolerated,” Cazayoux said.
Wilkerson caused the filing of 635 false tax returns, Cazayoux said, and the IRS paid $119,450 in refunds before denying grossly inflated deductions, totaling another $1.3 million, for telephone excise tax refunds.
At Wilkerson’s trial in June, defense attorney Todd S. Clemons, of Lake Charles, argued that the jury of seven women and five men should not trust the testimony of Wilkerson employees.
“They (prosecutors) bought the testimony of several witnesses who just are not reliable,” Clemons alleged.
“Fraud dreads examination,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Rene I. Salomon told jurors.
Wilkerson instructed his employees to inflate the deductions, Assistant U.S. Attorney Leetra Harris argued before jurors began their deliberations.
“It was Ronald Wilkerson alone who caused 635 false tax returns to be filed,” Harris said. “You can’t just make it up as you go along, but that’s what Ronald Wilkerson was doing.”
Added Harris: “Mr. Wilkerson knew exactly what he was doing. It was no mistake.”
Jackson sentenced Wilkerson to 92 months in federal prison. Under federal rules, Wilkerson must serve six years and six months before he can petition for early release from prison.