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Document and Benefit Fraud

LA tax preparer pleads guilty to tax and visa fraud charges

LOS ANGELES - A Los Angeles-area tax preparer, who was charged in a multi-faceted financial scheme that included making false claims to enable aliens to obtain religious worker visas, has pleaded guilty to tax and visa fraud charges.

Samuel Klein, 59, of Hancock Park, Calif., entered his plea Thursday as his trial entered its third day. Specifically, Klein pleaded guilty to three criminal counts - one count of visa fraud; one count of filing a fraudulent tax return; and one count of making a false statement to the Department of Education. His wife, Zipora Klein, 58, who was also on trial, pleaded guilty to one count of filing a fraudulent tax return.

The charges are the result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation division and the U.S. Department of Education.

According to court documents and case testimony, Samuel Klein filed visa applications on behalf of clients falsely claiming they were qualified religious workers who were wanted for employment by New York religious institutions. Case affidavits indicate investigators developed information that Samuel Klein, who operated a Wilshire Boulevard business called Smartax, filed bogus petitions for religious worker visas under the names of synagogues or Jewish community groups, claiming the religious institutions needed his clients as religious workers. In another case detailed in the indictment, Samuel Klein submitted a visa application that claimed an alien was needed to work for a New York company when, in truth, the alien had no plans to work for the company and did not have the qualifications claimed on the petition.

In addition to the visa fraud charges, both Kleins were accused of filing false tax returns that substantially understated their income on annual tax returns filed under penalty of perjury with the Internal Revenue Service.

The count involving making false statements to the Department of Education stems from an application Samuel Klein filed in 2006 seeking federal financial aid.

The Klein's sentencing is set for June 6. Samuel Klein faces a maximum penalty of 18 years in prison. His wife could receive up to three years.