A 58-year-old tax preparer from Mount Vernon was sentenced to 18 months in prison last week for filing fake tax returns for his “unsuspecting” clients, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Lawrence Appiah-Osei pleaded guilty in June to operating the scheme from 2017 to 2020 from his Mount Vernon home, defrauding the U.S. government of more than $1.4 million, according to a release published Friday (Nov. 3) by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Appiah-Osei started his tax preparation business, New Look Enterprise, in 2016, and the following year “executed a scheme to fraudulently inflate the tax refunds of his clients,” the release said.
“Appiah-Osei falsely claimed that his clients operated businesses that lost thousands of dollars each year,” prosecutors said in the release. “These fraudulent losses drove down the clients’ taxable income and increased the clients’ tax refunds.”
The Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation division estimated the tax loss to be nearly $1.5 million, according to court records.
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A 32-year-old man from Groveton pleaded guilty on Thursday (Nov. 2) to defrauding the government of more than $1.4 million in fraudulent pandemic-related Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and unemployment benefits.
George Mensah, Jr., 32, admitted in federal court to wire and mail fraud by collecting fees with two unnamed conspirators through CashApp, Zelle and bank transfers, according to court records. The scheme ran from Oct. 2020 to Sept. 2021, during which time Mensah admitted to preparing dozens of fake PPP loans and unemployment insurance claims under the CARES Act.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia:
Mensah admitted that he and his coconspirators prepared and submitted over 47 applications for PPP loans for fake businesses. At least 21 of these applications were funded by lenders, which caused an actual loss of at least $583,172. In addition, Mensah admitted that he and his co-conspirators obtained the personally identifiable information of others, including identity theft victims, in order to make claims for pandemic unemployment benefits in Virginia and elsewhere. Mensah admitted that he and his co-conspirators obtained at least $658,952 in fraudulently obtained unemployment insurance and pandemic benefits.
Mensah admitted to committing the schemes from three locations — an apartment in Springfield, an apartment in Tysons and from his parents’ home in Groveton.
“The defendant and his coconspirators created false tax returns, including Schedule C forms, and fake bank statements to accompany the fraudulent PPP loan applications,” according to court records.
Mensah admitted to collected fees through CashApp accounts and bank transfers, according to court records. Additionally, he admitted to receiving at least 20 Way2Go prepaid debit cards from the Virginia Employment Commission.
The maximum penalty for the offense is 30 years in prison, a $1 million fine, or twice the gross gain or loss, full restitution, forfeiture of assets and a maximum supervised release term of five years, according to court records. Mensah also agreed to pay the government back $1.5 million.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kimberly Shartar and Kathleen Robeson and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Ezra Spiro.
Mensah will be sentenced on Feb. 14.