A tax preparer from Pacific, Washington, was convicted Sept. 22 on 14 counts of aiding and abetting the filing of false tax returns, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Jean Mpouli, 58, worked as an aviation inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration for 25 years. As a side hustle, Mpouli prepared taxes for hundreds of clients, primarily for African immigrants, according to the DOJ.
During Mpouli’s three-day-long trial in the U.S. District Court in Seattle, prosecutors showed how Mpouli defrauded his clients to pad his own pockets.
“Mpouli falsely increased deductions for unreimbursed business expenses and educational expenses to boost his clients’ tax refunds,” the DOJ press release said. “Mpouli took a percentage of the refund as his fee, so the higher the refund, the larger the fee.”
In addition to this, Mpouli hid over $200,000 in revenue from his business on his personal tax returns, according to the DOJ.
It took less than two hours of deliberation for the jury to return the guilty verdicts, according to the DOJ. Mpouli faces up to three years in prison per count of conviction, he will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour on January 11, 2022, according to the DOJ.
Mpouli specifically targeted African Immigrants, according to the DOJ.
“He drew his clientele from his community, which consisted of hard-working immigrants from Africa and their children,” said acting U.S. Attorney Gorman. “He filed the false returns largely without the knowledge of the immigrants who sought his help – leaving them to deal with the IRS when the false entries were uncovered.”
The 14 convictions came after several years of work by the IRS Criminal Investigation Division, according to the DOJ.
In 2016, an analyst with the IRS found that a large number of returns prepared by Mpouli claimed deductions for unreimbursed business expenses. In 2017, the IRS sent an undercover officer to have taxes prepared by Mpouli.
The undercover officer gave Mpouli a W-2 form and Mpouli correctly calculated the officer owed around $800 in taxes, according to the DOJ. Then Mpouli offered to add around $34,000 in fraudulent expenses so the officer would get over $5,000 as a tax return, according to the DOJ.
Mpouli told the officer he should view this return as a “loan” in case the IRS audited the officer, according to the DOJ.
Later in 2017, officers executed a court-authorized search warrant of Mpouli’s business and found records of more than 1,200 personal tax returns on Mpouli’s computers, according to the DOJ. Hundreds of those returns had what the DOJ called “suspiciously high” amounts of unreimbursed business and education expenses. For example, Mpouli claimed one of his clients drove over 30,000 miles for business purposes in a single year, even though the client didn’t own a car or a driver’s license and had never driven a car in the U.S., according to the DOJ.
The IRS found that many of Mpouli’s clients were unaware of the deductions Mpouli had made on their behalf, according to the DOJ.
“When investigators contacted a random sampling of the clients who had used Mpouli’s services, they said they were not aware of the extent of the deductions he had claimed on their behalf,” the press release said. “Many did not own vehicles even though Mpouli listed unreimbursed car expenses.”
Tax-preparer fraud is one of the IRS’s top priorities, and officers will continue to investigate cases like Mpoulis.
Assistant United States Attorneys Lyndsie Schmalz and Frances Franze-Nakamura are the prosecutors in this case.