January 27, 2022

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San Antonio Return Preparer Pleads Guilty in Tax Fraud Scheme

17 min read
<div>A San Antonio, Texas, tax return preparer pleaded guilty today to aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Department of Justice’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Gregg N. Sofer of the Western District of Texas.</div>

A San Antonio, Texas, tax return preparer pleaded guilty today to aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Department of Justice’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Gregg N. Sofer of the Western District of Texas.

According to court documents and statements made in court, between 2013 and 2017, in San Antonio, Copperas Cove, and Killeen, Texas, Telesa Hall, 44, operated Precision Efile Tax Services, a tax preparation business. During the course of the scheme, Hall prepared at least 51 fraudulent tax returns, which sought to generate inflated refunds for her clients. Among other things, Hall falsely claimed on some of the returns substantial business losses, which artificially lowered her clients’ reported taxable income.

Sentencing is scheduled before U.S. District Court Jeffrey C. Manske. Hall faces a statutory maximum of three years in prison as well as a period of supervised release, restitution, and monetary penalties.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Zuckerman and U.S. Attorney Sofer commended special agents or IRS-Criminal Investigation, who conducted the investigation, and Trial Attorneys William B. Guappone and Francesca L. Bartolomey, who are prosecuting the case.

Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found on the division’s website.

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  • Disaster Recovery: Additional Actions Needed to Identify and Address Potential Recovery Barriers
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Limited research exists on the relationship between disaster outcomes and the six federal recovery programs included in this GAO review: the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Individual Assistance and Public Assistance programs, National Flood Insurance Program, and Hazard Mitigation Grant Program; the Small Business Administration's (SBA) Disaster Loan program; and Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery. The design of the nine available studies did not allow GAO to draw conclusions about causal relationships between federal disaster recovery programs and overall recovery outcomes. Of the studies that were available, GAO grouped the findings into two categories: (1) socioeconomic outcomes and (2) community resilience outcomes. Our review of socioeconomic studies suggested that outcomes of disaster assistance for individual programs may be uneven across communities. This review also suggested that federal programs may enhance community resilience and prevent flood-related fatalities for vulnerable residents. Limited research exists on the relationship between participation in select federal recovery programs and individual, community, and program characteristics. However, GAO found that some studies and stakeholder perspectives provided insight into the relationships between socioeconomic, demographic, community, and programmatic characteristics and participation. For example, a study of counties in one state found greater levels of flood mitigation in communities with larger tax revenues and larger budgets for emergency management. In addition, officials representing states said larger cities can hire a third party to manage disaster recovery, but small towns and rural areas may lack resources to contract for disaster recovery services. Similarly, an official representing tribal nations told GAO that not all tribal nations have sufficient funding to develop emergency management departments, which can be a barrier to accessing federal resources. Further, representatives from voluntary organizations told GAO that conditions of socioeconomic vulnerability—such as lower-income households or homelessness—may present barriers to participating in federal recovery programs. Some of the six federal recovery programs in this report have taken some actions that could help officials identify and address potential access barriers and disparate outcomes. However, programs lack key information—data and analysis—that would allow them to examine patterns and indicators of potential access barriers and disparate recovery outcomes. Moreover, the programs have not taken action to determine (1) the universe of data needed to support this kind of analysis; and (2) sources and methods to obtain those data when the programs do not already collect them, including overcoming key challenges. These programs also lacked routine, interagency processes to address such barriers within or across recovery programs on an ongoing basis. Systematic efforts to collect and analyze data, and routine, interagency processes to address any identified access barriers or disparate outcomes, would help ensure equal opportunity to participate in disaster recovery in a meaningful way. Such actions would be consistent with the National Disaster Recovery Framework and recent governmentwide equity initiatives. Why GAO Did This Study Disasters affect numerous American communities and cause billions of dollars of damage. Many factors affect individual and community recovery. Recently, federal actions have focused on equitable administration of federal recovery assistance. Members of Congress asked GAO to report on the impact of federal disaster recovery programs on various societal groups. This report addresses (1) research findings on recovery outcomes related to select federal programs, (2) research findings and recovery stakeholder perspectives on participation in select federal recovery programs, and (3) the extent to which federal disaster recovery agencies have taken actions to identify and address potential access barriers and disparate outcomes. GAO conducted a literature review to summarize key research findings and interviewed state, tribal, and nonprofit recovery stakeholders to gain their perspectives. GAO analyzed program documentation and interviewed federal program officials from the six federal programs selected because of their historically large obligations for disaster recovery.
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    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) continues to make progress implementing the recommendations from the 2014 nuclear enterprise reviews and the 2015 nuclear command, control, and communications enterprise review. From the 2014 reviews, DOD identified 175 recommendations. From these 175, DOD identified 247 actions it referred to as sub-recommendations, meaning that a recommendation made to multiple DOD components would be counted as one sub-recommendation for each of those components. Since GAO's March 2020 report, DOD has closed an additional nine of these sub-recommendations, and recommended 11 sub-recommendations for final closure. DOD has also closed one additional recommendation from the 13 made in its 2015 review, with four of the remaining five recommended for final closure. Regarding the 2014 recommendations related to nuclear security forces, DOD identified initial metrics and milestones for tracking the progress addressing the identified challenges, but GAO found that a key measure for many of the recommendations contained unreliable data. Additionally, more recent reviews of security forces have identified additional metrics and milestones that could help DOD in assessing the progress of recommendation implementation. However, DOD has not reassessed these measures to determine if they are appropriate. As a result, DOD is not in a position to effectively measure progress or assess whether the actions taken have addressed the underlying issues. In November 2018, GAO found that DOD had taken steps to improve nuclear enterprise oversight in response to the 2014 reviews. However, GAO found a key organization lacked clear roles, responsibilities, and methods to collaborate with other nuclear oversight organizations. Subsequently, in January 2021, DOD created a new entity, the Secretary of Defense Nuclear Transition Review, to take over responsibility for oversight of the defense nuclear enterprise (see figure). However, DOD has not defined specific roles and responsibilities for this organization or how it will communicate internally and with other organizations. Selected Oversight Groups in the Nuclear Enterprise In addition, DOD and the military services have made some progress in identifying areas for monitoring the health of the nuclear enterprise, but DOD has not identified the means by which it will monitor long-standing issues related to the long-term health of the enterprise. Why GAO Did This Study In 2014, the Secretary of Defense directed two reviews of DOD's nuclear enterprise. The reviews made recommendations to address long-standing issues with leadership, investment, morale, policy, and procedures, as well as other shortcomings adversely affecting the nuclear deterrence mission. In 2015, DOD conducted a review focused on nuclear command, control, and communications systems, resulting in additional recommendations. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 included a provision for GAO to review DOD's processes for addressing these recommendations. GAO assessed the extent to which DOD has (1) made progress implementing the recommendations; (2) evaluated the metrics and milestones for implementing the 2014 nuclear enterprise review recommendations related to nuclear security forces; and (3) implemented oversight mechanisms, including developing an approach for monitoring long-standing issues. GAO reviewed documents and interviewed DOD officials on the recommendations' status and DOD's oversight.
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    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Several potential options exist for disposing of grouted supplemental low-activity waste (LAW) from the Department of Energy's (DOE) Hanford site. (Grout immobilizes waste in a concrete-like mixture.) Specifically, two commercial and two federal facilities present minimal technical challenges to accepting grouted LAW. The commercial facilities—Clive Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility in Utah and Waste Control Specialists in Texas—are licensed to receive similar waste. The federal facilities—Hanford's Integrated Disposal Facility and the Nevada National Security Site—face regulatory constraints and other challenges to disposing of grouted supplemental LAW. Disposal costs and health and environmental risks vary among the four potential disposal facilities, but disposing of Hanford's supplemental LAW as grouted waste could cost billions less than disposing of it as vitrified waste, which is DOE's current plan. (Vitrification immobilizes the waste in glass.) DOE estimated that vitrification and disposal of the waste would cost between $21 billion and $37 billion. GAO estimated grouting and disposal would cost between $11 billion and $13 billion (see figure) and may be faster. DOE has begun exploring how to dispose of grouted Hanford waste, but it has not analyzed a range of options as GAO and DOE best practices recommend. As a result, DOE is likely missing opportunities to reduce risks, expedite treatment, and save tens of billions of dollars. Figure: Estimated Total Costs for Treatment and Disposal of Vitrified and Grouted Supplemental Low-Activity Waste DOE faces legal challenges in selecting a disposal site if it grouts supplemental LAW. For example, before DOE can consider alternatives to vitrification, it must show it can manage Hanford's tank waste as a waste type other than high-level waste (HLW) because it is currently required to vitrify at least a portion of the HLW. DOE is testing alternative treatment and disposal options, but DOE officials told GAO that if they continue with the testing, they expect the effort to be the subject of litigation. Clarifying DOE's authority to manage Hanford's supplemental LAW as low-level waste and transport it outside Washington State for disposal could help save tens of billions of dollars by allowing DOE to pursue less expensive disposal options. Why GAO Did This Study DOE oversees the treatment and disposal of 54 million gallons of nuclear and hazardous waste at the Hanford site in Washington State. Hanford's tank waste is currently managed as HLW; however, more than 90 percent of the waste's volume has low levels of radioactivity. DOE plans to vitrify a portion of Hanford's LAW, but it has not made a decision on how to treat and dispose of the roughly 40 percent referred to as supplemental LAW. In May 2017, GAO found that grouting supplemental LAW could save tens of billions of dollars and reduce certain risks compared to vitrification. However, little is known about disposal options for grouted LAW. GAO examined (1) what potential disposal options exist for grouted supplemental LAW, (2) what is known about the costs and environmental risks of potential disposal facilities and the extent to which DOE has assessed them, and (3) the challenges DOE faces in selecting a disposal method. GAO reviewed technical reports on DOE's waste disposal strategies at Hanford, compared DOE's approach to best practices, and interviewed DOE officials and disposal facility representatives.
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    In U.S GAO News
    Why This Matters The Department of Education gives grants to schools and organizations that provide disadvantaged students with services to help them attend college. These eight grant programs are collectively known as “TRIO”, named for the original three programs. Congress provides over $1 billion each year to these programs, but Education could do more to understand how well these grants work to help students. Key Takeaways Education could improve the information it has about TRIO programs in two areas: (1) grantee performance data, and (2) program assessments. Schools and organizations report data to Education to show how the TRIO grants they receive have been working. For example, organizations that receive grants to encourage students to complete college report on the numbers and percentages of students who received services and earned degrees.  Education evaluates grantees’ performance using the self-reported data, but has done little to verify the data. Accurate performance data are important because returning grantees can earn points for past performance in the next grant competition—increasing the likelihood that they will receive new grants. Almost 80 percent of recent TRIO grants went to returning grantees.  Therefore, grantees may have an incentive to report a more positive picture than warranted. Officials from an organization representing TRIO grantees told us there is a risk that some grantees may report inaccurate information.  As for assessing the individual TRIO programs, studies of some programs are outdated. In addition, Education has never assessed the effectiveness of three of the seven TRIO programs that serve students, and did not have any new assessments planned as of August 2020. How GAO Did This Study We analyzed data from Education about TRIO grantees and applicants. We also reviewed relevant federal laws and regulations and agency documents, and interviewed Education officials and other TRIO stakeholders. Education should take additional steps to ensure the reliability of grantees' performance data and develop a plan for assessing the effectiveness of the TRIO programs that serve students. Education generally agreed with our recommendations. For more information, contact Melissa Emrey-Arras at (617) 788-0534 or emreyarrasm@gao.gov.
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    In U.S GAO News
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The United States' commitments to GWOT will likely involve the continued investment of significant resources, requiring decision makers to consider difficult trade-offs as the nation faces an increasing long-range fiscal challenge. The magnitude of future costs will depend on several direct and indirect cost variables and, in some cases, decisions that have not yet been made. DOD's future costs will likely be affected by the pace and duration of operations, the types of facilities needed to support troops overseas, redeployment plans, and the amount of equipment to be repaired or replaced. DOD compiles and reports monthly and cumulative incremental obligations incurred to support GWOT in a monthly Supplemental and Cost of War Execution Report. DOD leadership uses this report, along with other information, to advise Congress on the costs of the war and to formulate future GWOT budget requests. DOD reports these obligations by appropriation, contingency operation, and military service or defense agency. The monthly cost reports are typically compiled in the 45 days after the end of the reporting month in which the obligations are incurred. DOD has prepared monthly reports on the obligations incurred for its involvement in GWOT since fiscal year 2001. Section 1221 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 requires us to submit quarterly updates to Congress on the costs of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom based on DOD's monthly Supplemental and Cost of War Execution Reports. This report, which responds to this requirement, contains our analysis of DOD's reported obligations for military operations in support of GWOT through September 2007. Specifically, we assessed (1) DOD's appropriations and reported obligations for military operations in support of GWOT through fiscal year 2007 and (2) DOD's fiscal year 2007 reported obligations for GWOT by military service and appropriation account.From fiscal year 2001 through fiscal year 2007, Congress has provided DOD with about $542.9 billion for its efforts in support of GWOT. DOD has reported obligations of about $492.2 billion for military operations in support of the war from fiscal years 2001 through 2007. The $50.7 billion difference between DOD's GWOT appropriations and reported obligations can generally be attributed to multiyear funding for procurement; military construction; and research, development, test, and evaluation from previous GWOT-related appropriations that have yet to be obligated, and obligations for classified activities, which are not included in DOD's reported obligations. DOD's total reported obligations related to GWOT have demonstrated a steady annual increase each fiscal year through 2007. DOD's reported obligations of about $139.8 billion in fiscal year 2007 were approximately 1.4 times higher than reported GWOT obligations of about $98.4 billion for fiscal year 2006. The higher reported obligations in fiscal year 2007 are largely due to costs associated with Operation Iraqi Freedom, in part due to the surge strategy announced in January 2007, which provided for the deployment of additional troops. DOD's reported obligations through fiscal year 2007 include about $378.1 billion for operations in and around Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and about $86.2 billion for operations in Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, the Philippines, and elsewhere as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. It also includes about $27.9 billion for operations in defense of the homeland as part of Operation Noble Eagle. Reported obligations associated with Operation Iraqi Freedom continue to be far higher than those for other GWOT operations in fiscal year 2007. From fiscal years 2003 through 2007, DOD's reported obligations for Operation Iraqi Freedom consistently increased each fiscal year. In contrast, DOD's reported obligations for Operation Noble Eagle have consistently decreased since fiscal year 2003, while those for Operation Enduring Freedom have remained within a range of $10.3 billion to $20.1 billion each fiscal year. DOD's reported obligations for fiscal year 2007 totaled $139.8 billion. The Army accounts for the largest proportion of reported obligations for fiscal year 2007--about $98.0 billion, nearly eight times higher than the almost $12.9 billion in obligations reported for the Air Force, the military service with the next greatest reported amount. Among appropriation accounts, operation and maintenance, which include items such as support for housing, food, and services; the repair of equipment; and transportation to move people, supplies, and equipment, accounts for the largest reported obligations--about $74.9 billion. Reported obligations for procurement account for about a quarter of total reported obligations or about $35.8 billion. Of the $43.6 billion provided to DOD for procurement in fiscal year 2007, approximately 34 percent or $14.3 billion, remained available for use in fiscal year 2008.
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  • Paycheck Protection Program: Program Changes Increased Lending to the Smallest Businesses and in Underserved Locations
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) supports small businesses through forgivable loans for payroll and other eligible costs. Early lending favored larger and rural businesses, according to GAO's analysis of Small Business Administration (SBA) data. Specifically, 42 percent of Phase 1 loans (approved from April 3–16, 2020) went to larger businesses (10 to 499 employees), although these businesses accounted for only 4 percent of all U.S. small businesses. Similarly, businesses in rural areas received 19 percent of Phase 1 loans but represented 13 percent of all small businesses. Banks made a vast majority of Phase 1 loans. In response to concerns that some underserved businesses—in particular, businesses owned by self-employed individuals, minorities, women, and veterans—faced challenges obtaining loans, Congress and SBA made a series of changes that increased lending to these businesses. For example, SBA admitted about 600 new lenders to start lending in Phase 2 (which ran from April 27–August 8, 2020), including nonbanks (generally, lending institutions that do not accept deposits). SBA developed guidance after Phase 1 helping self-employed individuals participate in the program. SBA targeted funding to minority-owned businesses in part through Community Development Financial Institutions in Phases 2–3. (Phase 3 ran from January 12–June 30, 2021.) By the time PPP closed in June 2021, lending in traditionally underserved counties was proportional to their representation in the overall small business community (see figure). While lending to businesses with fewer than 10 employees remained disproportionately low, it increased significantly over the course of the program. Paycheck Protection Program Loans, by Type of Business or County Why GAO Did This Study The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in significant turmoil in the U.S. economy, leading to temporary and permanent business closures and high unemployment. In response, in March 2020, Congress established PPP under the CARES Act and ultimately provided commitment authority of approximately $814 billion for the program over three phases. When initial program funding ran out in 14 days, concerns quickly surfaced that certain businesses were unable to access the program, prompting a series of changes by Congress and SBA. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to monitor the federal government's efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. GAO has issued a series of reports on this program, and has made a number of recommendations to improve program performance and integrity. This report describes trends in small business and lender participation in PPP. GAO analyzed loan-level PPP data from SBA and county-level data from four U.S. Census Bureau products and surveyed a generalizable sample of PPP lenders, stratified by lender type and size. GAO also reviewed legislation, interim final rules, agency guidance, and relevant literature, as well as interviewed SBA officials. For more information, contact John Pendleton at (202) 512-8678 or pendletonj@gao.gov.
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  • Aviation Sanitation: FDA Could Better Communicate with Airlines to Encourage Voluntary Construction Inspections of Aircraft Galleys and Lavatories
    In U.S GAO News
    Most commercial aircraft undergo voluntary inspections to ensure that galleys and lavatories are constructed and assembled to meet the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) sanitation standards, according to industry representatives. Twenty-seven percent of the inspections FDA conducted between fiscal years 2015 and 2019 found objectionable conditions. But in nearly all of these instances, the conditions identified, such as the need for additional sealant in areas where there was a gap or seam, were corrected by the airline or aircraft manufacturer during the inspection. However, some regional airline representatives told GAO that their aircraft do not receive these construction inspections, either because larger airlines with which they have contracts told them the inspections were unnecessary or because they did not believe the inspections were relevant to them. FDA provides these inspections free of charge, upon request of aircraft manufacturers or airlines, and aircraft passing inspection receive a certificate of sanitary construction. Representatives of one aircraft manufacturer said they view the certificate as beneficial because their customers see it as a guarantee that the aircraft was constructed in a way that decreases the likelihood of microbial contamination, pests, and insects. While the construction inspections are important, they are not required, and FDA does not proactively encourage airlines to request them. By developing a process for communicating directly to all U.S.-based commercial airlines, including regional airlines, to encourage them to receive construction inspections, FDA could better ensure that aircraft meet FDA sanitation standards to protect passenger health. An Airline Representative Applying Additional Sealant in Response to an FDA Inspection FDA faces several challenges in providing construction inspections and is taking steps to address these challenges. For example, the demand for inspections by manufacturers and airlines is unpredictable, and FDA inspectors are responsible for inspections at multiple locations. To help mitigate these challenges, officials we interviewed from four FDA field offices said they usually request advance notice from industry to allow the agency time to allocate the necessary resources for construction inspections. Voluntary construction inspections are the primary mechanism by which FDA oversees compliance with its required sanitation standards for the construction of aircraft galleys and lavatories. A report accompanying the House 2019 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill included a provision for GAO to review FDA's process for ensuring proper sanitation in aircraft galleys and lavatories. This report (1) examines the extent to which aircraft are inspected to ensure compliance with FDA's sanitation standards, and (2) discusses challenges FDA faces in providing aircraft inspections and how FDA is addressing such challenges. GAO reviewed FDA guidance, interviewed FDA officials in headquarters and four selected field offices with high volumes of construction inspections, conducted site visits to meet with FDA inspectors, and interviewed representatives of selected aircraft manufacturers and airlines. GAO recommends that FDA develop a process for communicating directly with all U.S.-based commercial airlines to encourage them to request construction inspections. FDA generally agreed with our recommendation. For more information, contact Steve Morris (202) 512-3841 MorrisS@gao.gov.
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    What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) made progress toward implementing its new electronic health record system, MHS GENESIS. DOD deployed the new system to sites in six of 24 planned deployment phases (i.e., waves), which included about 41,600 users (see figure). DOD also improved system performance and addressed issues experienced at the initial sites. Even with this progress, incidents identified during testing—such as system defects—remain unresolved. DOD has not developed plans to conduct additional testing at future sites to ensure the remaining incidents are fully resolved. As a result, unaddressed incidents could lead to challenges at future sites. Actual and Planned MHS GENESIS Deployments, 2017-2023, as of June 2021 Additionally, implementation of MHS GENESIS faced training and communication challenges. Test results and selected system users indicated that training for MHS GENESIS and the dissemination of system change information were ineffective. For example, the users stated that training was not consistent with the “live” system. Further, users reported that there were too many system changes to keep up with and that they were not adequately informed as changes were implemented. As a result, users were unaware of important changes to their roles or business processes, or to system revisions and improvements. These challenges could hinder users' ability to effectively use the system, impede their knowledge of new workflows, and limit the utility of system improvements. Regarding key program risks, DOD identified and was tracking risks and their associated mitigation plans. Why GAO Did This Study DOD relies on multiple legacy electronic health record systems to create, maintain, and manage patient health information. DOD has determined that these systems, implemented over the past 3 decades, require modernization and replacement. The department has sought to replace these legacy systems with a comprehensive, real-time electronic health record. The conference report accompanying the Department of Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act, 2019 and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2019 included a provision for GAO to review DOD's electronic health record deployment. GAO's objectives were to (1) determine what progress DOD has made toward implementing a new electronic health record system, and (2) identify the challenges and key risks to MHS GENESIS implementation and what steps DOD is taking to address them. To do so, GAO analyzed test reports, briefing materials, and incident report tracking documents. GAO also held discussion groups with 356 users at selected sites and interviewed relevant officials.
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