Two men were sentenced to prison yesterday for conspiring to defraud the United States by promoting a nationwide tax fraud scheme to more than 200 participants in at least 19 states.
Iran V. Backstrom, aka Shariyf Noble, of Milledgeville, Georgia, was sentenced to 105 months in prison. His second-in-command, Mehef Bey, aka Arthur Daniels, of Charlotte, North Carolina, was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Backstrom was the main promoter of the scheme and Bey was one of his co-conspirators. Their scheme involved recruiting clients and preparing false tax returns on the clients’ behalf by convincing them their mortgages and other debts entitled them to tax refunds. Between 2014 and 2016, Backstrom and Bey held seminars across the county to publicize the scheme. As part of the scheme, Backstrom, Bey and their co-conspirators helped prepare and file tax returns for the participants that sought more than $64 million refunds from the IRS. These tax returns falsely claimed that banks and other financial institutions had withheld large amounts of income tax from the participants, thereby entitling the clients to a refund. In reality, the financial institutions had not paid any income to, or withheld any taxes from, these individuals. To make the refund claims appear legitimate, however, Backstrom, Bey and their co-conspirators filed fraudulent tax documents with the IRS that matched the withholding information listed on the tax returns, making them appear as if they had been issued by the banks.
As part of his plea, Backstrom admitted he gave orders to others as part of the scheme. Backstrom and Bey both admitted they and their co-conspirators concealed their roles in the scheme by, among other things, indicating the false tax returns had been “self-prepared,” submitting false IRS forms designed to appear as if they were created by the participants’ financial institutions, and coaching the participants on how to conceal the scheme from the IRS. Backstrom and Bey further admitted they and their co-conspirators charged participants approximately $10,000 to $15,000 in fees for the preparation of each tax return.
Two of Backstrom and Bey’s co-conspirators, Aaron Aqueron and Yomarie Febres, have also pleaded guilty and will be sentenced at a later date.
“Backstrom and Bey marketed a tax refund scheme throughout the country, costing the government millions of dollars,” said Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division. “They have now received substantial sentences for their criminal conduct. Others contemplating promoting similar schemes should recognize that they too will be identified and face significant time in prison.”
“Tax fraud is a serious crime,” stated U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg for the Middle District of Florida. “The defendants in this case employed a complex scheme to defraud the IRS out of millions of dollars. We encourage consumers to be vigilant in selecting legitimate tax preparers as we continue to work with our law enforcement partners to prosecute those who willfully violate our nation’s tax laws.”
“With tax season in full swing, the significant sentencings of the defendants is a timely reminder of the consequences awaiting those who file fraudulent returns,” said Special Agent in Charge Brian Payne of IRS-Criminal Investigation. “Dishonest return preparers use a variety of methods to cheat the government. If it seems too good to be true, it is very likely too good to be true. Remember, it is your responsibility to know what is on your income tax return. Taxpayers are encouraged to visit the IRS.gov website for tips on selecting a reputable return preparer.”
In addition to the term of imprisonment, the district judge also ordered both defendants to serve three years of supervised release and pay approximately $26,350,630 in restitution to the United States.
Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg and U.S. Attorney Handberg made the announcement.
IRS-Criminal Investigation is investigating the case.
Trial Attorneys Melissa S. Siskind, Kavitha Bondada and Isaiah Boyd III of the Tax Division, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Chauncey A. Bratt for the Middle District of Florida, are prosecuting the case.