Queens County Tax Preparers Charged With Filing False New York State Personal Income Tax Returns

NEW YORK, NY (February 22, 2007) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo and Acting New York State Tax Commissioner Barbara G. Billet today announced the indictment of two New York City women involved in the preparation of false New York State personal income tax returns.  The false returns, prepared at Gypsy Travel in Ridgewood, Queens, resulted in improper state tax refunds.

Briseida Christopher, 65, of Brooklyn, owner of Gypsy Travel, and Juana De Castro, 52, of Woodhaven, a tax preparer, were both arraigned today in Albany County Court before the Hon. Judge Dan Lamont.  The indictment charges Christopher and De Castro with multiple counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a class-E felony, and one count of the Tax Law crime of Aiding or Assisting in the Giving of Fraudulent Personal Income Tax Returns, also a class-E felony.  Both crimes are punishable by up to four years in jail.  Bail was set at $50,000 for each defendant.

The indictment alleges that during a period between January 1, 2003, and April 15, 2005, De Castro and Christopher filed fraudulent New York State personal income tax returns for clients and for themselves.  In addition, the pair surreptitiously charged clients additional tax preparation fees – sometimes as much as $600 – through a refund anticipation loan.  Between January 1, 2003, and December 31, 2005, Gypsy Travel earned approximately $585,000 from these fees.      

Attorney General Cuomo said, “Tax preparation services should exist to help people, not to swindle them.  My office will vigorously pursue those who file false income tax returns and charge exorbitant preparation fees.  Those who use their businesses to take advantage of New Yorkers will face justice.”

Acting Commissioner Barbara G. Billet of the State Department of Taxation and Finance said, “Each year, we uncover tax fraud schemes that hurt innocent taxpayers.  Unsuspecting taxpayers are led to believe they are entitled to credits and deductions they do not qualify for and, in the end, they are left to pay the price long after a dishonest tax preparer has closed shop and moved on in search of another victim.  We cannot stress enough how important it is to use a reputable and established tax preparer.”

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