Seattle – A 58-year-old resident of Pacific, Washington was convicted last night in Seattle U.S. District Court of 14 counts of aiding and abetting false income tax returns, the Acting U.S. prosecutor said Tessa M. Gorman. Jean Mpouli worked for 25 years as an aviation inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), while next door he ran a tax preparation company with hundreds of clients, mainly offering his services to African immigrants. During the three-day trial, prosecutors showed how Mpouli falsely increased deductions for unreimbursed business expenses and education expenses to increase tax refunds for his clients. Mpouli took a percentage of the reimbursement as a fee, so the higher the reimbursement, the larger the fee. On his personal tax returns, Mpouli hid more than $ 200,000 in income generated by his illegal side activity. The jury deliberated less than two hours before rendering the guilty verdicts.
Mpouli faces up to 3 years in prison per count when convicted by U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour on January 11, 2022.
“Even though he was employed by the federal government, this defendant sought to deceive the government on tax revenues,” Acting US Attorney Gorman said. “He drew his clientele from his community, which consisted of immigrant workers from Africa and their children. He filed the false returns largely without the knowledge of the immigrants who asked for his help – leaving them to deal with the IRS when the false entries were discovered. “
According to records filed in the case and testimony at trial, in late 2016, an IRS analyst noted that an unusually high number of returns prepared by Mpouli claimed deductions for unreimbursed business expenses. In 2017, the IRS’s criminal investigations division sent an undercover agent into the company to take a close look at how Mpouli prepared tax returns. Using the W-2 information provided by the undercover agent, Mpouli correctly determined that the agent owed around $ 800 in taxes. However, Mpouli then proposed to enter approximately $ 34,000 in fraudulent expenses in order to bring the undercover agent’s reimbursement to over $ 5,600. Mpouli explained that the undercover agent should consider the repayment a “loan” in case the agent is audited by the IRS. Mpouli then accepted $ 250 in cash as a fee for preparing the fraudulent return.
When officers executed court-authorized search warrants on the business in September 2017, they found more than 1,200 personal tax returns on Mpouli’s computers. Hundreds of tax returns show surprisingly high amounts of unreimbursed business expenses and education expenses. In one example, Mpouli claimed that a customer had driven over 33,000 business miles in one year. However, the client did not own a vehicle, did not have a driver’s license, and had never driven a vehicle in the United States.
When investigators contacted a random sample of clients who had used Mpouli’s services, they said they were unaware of the extent of the deductions he had claimed on their behalf. Many did not own vehicles although Mpouli recorded unreimbursed car expenses. Others never attended the educational institution indicated on the statements. In some cases, he claimed that children attended secondary school, even though they were in fact enrolled in daycare or primary school. Customers said Mpouli did not discuss the statements with them before filing them, and when told they were being vetted, he refused to help them.
“Mpouli brazenly scammed taxpayers while simultaneously collecting a paycheck from the taxpaying public. As a tax preparer, he had an obligation to his clients to prepare tax returns that were accurate and compliant with the law. Instead, he took advantage of their trust and pocketed a percentage of each fraudulent refund, ”said Bret Kressin, special agent in charge of IRS criminal investigations. “Tax preparer fraud is a top priority for IRS criminal investigations, and special agents will continue to investigate tax preparers who defraud the government, their clients, and the taxpayer public.”
According to financial documents, during the period of the fraud, Mpouli was sending more than $ 300,000 to his native Cameroon to pay for the construction of an apartment building.
The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service: Criminal Investigation. The case is being pursued by Deputy U.S. Attorneys Lyndsie Schmalz and Frances Franze-Nakamura.