Oct 6, 2014 1:32 PM
Florida woman pleads guilty in Nashua-based income tax return fraud scheme
CONCORD -- A Florida woman has plead guilty in U.S. District Court in Concord to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with a nationwide tax refund scheme responsible for more than $4 million in fraudulent tax returns.
The alleged mastermind of the scheme, Nashua resident Craig S. Cudhea, was previously charged with conspiracy, wire fraud and other crimes in connection with the scheme. Federal officials say he committed suicide after learning that he was being prosecuted, and the charges against him have been dismissed.
Ann Marie Howard Aguiar, 47, of Jacksonville, Florida, admitted that she participated in the scheme to file a large number of false tax returns claiming refunds under false identities.
The scheme, based in Nashua, resulted in the filing of thousands of false claims for tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service.
According to federal prosecutors, Cudhea recruited a nationwide network of pastors to solicit members of their congregations to provide their names and social security numbers on the false pretense that the information would
be used to secure stimulus funds that they claimed the government was giving to the poor, disabled
The pastors led churches in Virginia, Georgia, New York, Texas, South Carolina,
Arkansas, Ohio and Nevada.
Many congregants at these churches, consisting mostly of low income
individuals with limited experience with the IRS, provided their personal identifying information
and the pastors forwarded that information to Cudhea.
Cudhea then transmitted the personal identifying information to approximately eight women
around the country whom he had recruited via the internet to enter the information on electronic tax
returns. Cudhea dubbed this group of women his "angels."
Cudhea instructed Aguiar and the other "angels" to report certain information on the
falsified tax returns, including specific income amounts, withholding, and expenses such as
education and child care that would generate credits and refunds. The information reported was
always very similar and often identical.
Cudhea and his group filed more than 5,000 false tax returns seeking refunds of approximately $9.4 million.
Cudhea paid Aguiar a flat fee for each false return she prepared that was accepted for processing by the IRS.
Cudhea directed the IRS to pay portions of each refund to himself, the pastor who provided the personal
identifying information, and sometimes the person in whose name the return was filed. The scheme
induced the IRS to pay more than $4 million in false refund claims before it became aware of the
fraudulent nature of the claims.
Aguiar faces a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and maximum fine of $250,000. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 16.
The case was investigated by the Manchester field office of the IRS's Criminal Investigation division and is being prosecuted by an Assistant U.S. Attorney.