The owner and operator of a St. Louis County tax preparation service has been indicted for filing false returns and stealing the identities of taxpayers, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in St. Louis.
Ronald Shoniwa, 36, of Florissant, faces one count of theft of government funds for filing 15 tax returns which generated more than $50,000 in improperly paid refunds and two counts of aggravated identity theft for stealing the names and social security numbers of unsuspecting citizens and filing fraudulent returns in their names without their consent or knowledge.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in St. Louis reports that if convicted, Shoniwa faces a maximum penalty of ten years, and/or a fine of up to $250,000. The aggravated identity theft counts are punishable by two years mandatory imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000. The sentence for aggravated identity theft runs consecutively to any sentence imposed on the theft of government funds count. Additionally, the courts will seek restitution to the IRS.
United States Attorney Richard Callahan noted that “stolen identity refund fraud is a large and growing problem across the country and the IRS and Justice Department dedicates substantial resources in fighting it, particularly at this time of year.”
“Taxpayers should exercise caution when choosing a tax professional, especially since you will hand over your personal and financial identifying information,” said Sybil Smith, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation. “They should also be aware of the many free, professional tax preparation services available to low and moderate income taxpayers and senior residents throughout the St. Louis.”