Tax preparer sent to prison after causing more than $3 million in fraudulent tax returns
HOUSTON, TX -- A suburban Houston-area man has been ordered to prison following his convictions of 15 counts of fraud and tax violations, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
A Houston federal jury convicted Winfred Fields Feb. 13 following a two-week trial.
Today, U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. handed Fields a 109-month sentence to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release.
Fields operated tax and bookkeeping businesses from an office on Richmond Avenue in Houston for many years under the business names Fields Enterprises, Your Tax Professionals and The Tax Boss.
At trial, the jury heard Fields participated in a scheme involving the submission of U.S. Individual Tax Returns on behalf of foreign people working on vessels on the Outer Continental Shelf of the United States. These crewmembers were engaged in oil and gas exploitation activities in the Gulf of Mexico.
“In order to enrich himself and line his own pockets, the defendant mislead his clients by falsely claiming an international tax treaty was justification for amending their tax returns,” said Special Agent in Charge D. Richard Goss of IRS-Criminal Investigation’s (CI) Houston Field Office. “As shown by today’s sentencing, this type of deceit will not go unpunished. IRS-CI will continue to protect the public by pursuing unscrupulous tax return preparers.”
“Tax fraud schemes have been around for many years,” said Inspector in Charge Adrian Gonzalez of the Houston Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS). “USPIS is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to ensure the U.S. Mails are not used as a tool to facilitate these fraudulent schemes. The arrest and sentencing of Winfred Fields was a direct result of the collaborative efforts between the USPIS and IRS-CI.”
At trial, the evidence showed Fields falsely claimed workers were exempt from U.S. tax under a tax treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom, Spain or New Zealand. The employing companies had previously provided to the IRS withholdings from the worker’s wages and reported the income to the IRS. However, Fields submitted amended tax returns as well as original nonresident tax forms 1040NR claiming a refund of the entirety of the amounts paid in as U.S. taxes for various tax years including 2007 through 2012.
Fields charged a fee of $2,500 for each crew member’s first return and required a $1,000 fee for each return thereafter. He required direct receipt of the refunds so he could negotiate the checks and take his fee off the top. Fields had some refund checks deposited directly into one of several bank accounts he maintained. Alternatively, he cashed the checks at a Houston check cashing business or had the checks deposited into one of several attorney trust accounts three different Houston lawyers had maintained. Fields gathered the check proceeds or deposited them into the attorney trust accounts after paying a fee to the check cashing business and the attorneys for the service of cashing the U.S. Treasury checks. Fields deposited the proceeds in one of several bank accounts he utilized during the scheme.
Fields agreed to provide the remainder of the refund proceeds to the foreign clients. He did that for a while, but ultimately stopped forwarding any money to the workers. As those individuals began contacting him to ask for updates on their refund claims, he repeatedly sent misleading and materially false responses to their questions.
The jury heard that Fields fraudulently obtained $3,097,974.19 in tax refunds from the IRS and kept approximately $1,302,271.75 for himself.
The defense attempted to convince the jury he acted in good faith and believed the wages were exempt. He also claimed he was trying to pay the crewmembers their refunds but just got behind. The jury rejected Fields’ contentions in their verdict and found him guilty as charged on all 15 counts.
Fields was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the future.
IRS - CI and USPIS conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Melissa Annis and Charles Escher prosecuted this case.