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Belleville woman gets prison in tax return fraud case

From Illinois Business Journal news services

EAST ST. LOUIS – Dorresa Braggs, 46, of Belleville, has been sentenced to a total of 70 months in federal prison, followed by three years supervised release, as a result of her convictions for 10 counts of making false claims against the United States and one count of aggravated identity theft, Stephen R. Wigginton, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, said today.

In Braggs’ case, potential fraud was detected by the Scheme Development Center of the I.R.S. The investigation determined that from 2010 through 2012, Braggs filed 152 fraudulent tax returns for the tax year 2010 and 49 fraudulent tax returns for the tax year 2011, for a total of 201 fraudulent tax returns. The 201 fraudulent tax returns submitted to the IRS created an attempted total tax loss of $1,395,370. The IRS declined or denied a significant amount of the fraudulent tax returns submitted by Braggs and the amount paid by the IRS was determined to be $579,705, which was ordered to be repaid as restitution.

The returns included fraudulent or falsified W-2 (income/withholdings) Schedule C (business expenses/losses), and Form 8863 (education credits) and falsified dependents. Braggs submitted the claims via the Internet using H&R Block and Turbotax software, and refunds were issued in check and direct deposit form. The direct deposit refunds were typically issued to prepaid debit cards, which the defendant purchased and used to receive and disperse the fraudulent tax refunds.

The addresses used on the tax returns were typically not the right address for the taxpayer but an address that she controlled through a friend or family member. The refunds, if directed to be loaded on prepaid cards were often a different address than the tax return or the real address of the taxpayer. Braggs’ tax preparation fee ranged from $500 to $1,000, and her fees were based on the amount of refund the client received.

At sentencing it was disclosed that Braggs even filed a tax return for her oldest son, who was in jail for a murder. At the time he was in the Illinois Department of Corrections, Braggs filed a federal tax return on his behalf claiming he was working at a St. Louis hospital and had a side business as a mechanic.

Braggs spent a large portion of the money received from the fraudulent tax returns gambling at St. Louis area casinos.

It was also revealed that at the time she was in the business of preparing fraudulent returns, Braggs was also receiving public aid. Braggs was collecting food stamps, receiving housing assistance from St. Clair County, and was a representative payee for Social Security benefits for her son.

The successful prosecution is the result of an investigation conducted by the Internal Revenue Service/Criminal Investigations. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Norman R. Smith.

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