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Financial Crimes

Sarasota businessman pleads guilty to preparing fraudulent tax returns for illegal aliens

TAMPA, Fla. — A Sarasota man pleaded guilty Wednesday to aiding and assisting in the preparation and presentation of fraudulent tax returns. The guilty plea follows an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Sarasota Police Department.

According to the plea agreement, Fernando Torres, 41, operated a tax preparation business in Sarasota. Torres' business catered mostly to individuals who were unlawfully present in the United States, but resided in and around Sarasota County.

During 2011 and 2012, Torres prepared and filed 239 fraudulent tax returns with the IRS on behalf of his clients. He ensured that his clients obtained refunds by falsely claiming that they had one or more qualified dependents, when in fact, they did not. In order to increase the amount of refunds received by his clients, Torres also fraudulently claimed the additional child tax credit for them.

As a result of Torres' conduct, the IRS paid out nearly $698,000 in tax refunds to individuals who should not have received them.

Torres faces up to six years in federal prison.