There are so many news stories about fraud these days that I’m swimming in it. One particular story, this one from the Whittier Daily News in Whittier, California, caught my eye. Any time the headline is “Former CPA charged with tax fraud,” I perk right up. None of the “good apples” in the trustworthy accounting orchard like these “bad apples” growing on the tree. However, when they fall to the ground and get put in the prison basket, there’s a certain element of satisfaction knowing that evil forces are not winning in our noble accounting profession.
Fundamentally, there’s nothing terribly unusual about this case or the set of circumstances surrounding the fraud. It’s those words “Former CPA” that really gets me. If you’re bright enough to be a CPA, EA, controller, etc., one would hope that when you set out on the course, you then stick to the straight and narrow. Unfortunately, life is a bit like a television show drama. Maybe there should be Law & Order: Accountants.
The article is below. Anything short of life in prison and a hefty fine would be shameful, in my opinion.
A former CPA and tax preparer from Los Angeles County was arraigned earlier this week on suspicion of conspiring with a Diamond Bar man and an Upland man to file false tax returns using names and Social Security numbers of dead people and claiming more than $2 million in refunds.
Masood Chotani spent the last three years as a fugitive in Pakistan, according to the IRS. They didn’t say when he was arrested or where.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Pell said Chotani was arraigned Tuesday in a Los Angeles federal court. A federal judge ordered Chotani, who has pleaded not guilty, detained pending posting of a bond, Pell added.
Authorities alleged that in 2002 and 2003, Chotani, Ather Ali of Diamond Bar and Haroon Amin of Upland conspired to file at least 250 false income tax returns.
Many of the refund checks were deposited into bank accounts in Pakistan and Armenia, according to a federal grand jury indictment unsealed this year.
A federal grand jury in Riverside indicted Chotani two years ago.
Most of the offenses occurred in San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and Ventura counties.
Chotani is the last of the three men to face trial.
Ali was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison on Dec. 17, 2010 while Amin received a 30-month sentence on Sept. 21, 2011, Pell said.
Chotani was also charged with personally preparing and filing two false claims for refund on federal income tax returns. His trial is set for Sept. 4.
If convicted, IRS officials said Chotani faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of conspiracy and presenting false claims.
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