Tampa, Florida - A Georgia man pled guilty Friday to conspiring to defraud the United States by promoting a nationwide tax fraud scheme to more than 200 participants in at least 19 states. He also pleaded guilty to helping others prepare and file false tax returns for individuals recruited to the scheme.
According to court documents, Iran V. Backstrom, also known as Shariyf Noble, of Milledgeville, was the main promoter of the scheme, which involved recruiting clients and preparing false tax returns on their behalf by convincing them that their mortgages and other debts entitled them to tax refunds. Between 2014 and 2016, Backstrom and his co-conspirators held seminars across the county to publicize the scheme. As part of the scheme, Backstrom helped prepare and file tax returns for the participants, which collectively sought more than $25 million in refunds from the IRS. These tax returns falsely claimed that banks and other financial institutions had withheld large amounts of income tax from the participants, thereby entitling the clients to a refund. In reality, the financial institutions had not paid any income to or withheld any taxes from these individuals. To make the refund claims appear legitimate, however, Backstrom and his co-conspirators filed tax documents with the IRS that matched the withholding information listed on the tax returns, making them appear as if they had been issued by the banks.
As part of his plea, Backstrom admitted he gave orders to others as part of the scheme. Several of his co-conspirators previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme. Backstrom also admitted that he and his co-conspirators concealed their roles in the scheme by, among other things, indicating the false tax returns had been “self-prepared,” submitting false IRS forms designed to appear as if they were created by the participants’ financial institutions and coaching the participants how to conceal the scheme from the IRS. Backstrom further admitted he and his co-conspirators charged participants approximately $10,000 to $15,000 in fees for preparation of each tax return. Although Backstrom personally received approximately $1 million for his role in the scheme, he did not file tax returns for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 to report this income.
Backstrom’s sentencing will be scheduled for a later date. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison for conspiring to defraud the United States and three years in prison for each of the seven counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation and filing of a false tax return. He also faces a period of supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Karin Hoppmann for the Middle District of Florida made the announcement.
IRS-Criminal Investigation is investigating the case.
Trial Attorneys Melissa S. Siskind, Kavitha Bondada and Isaiah Boyd III of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Chauncey A. Bratt for the Middle District of Florida are prosecuting the case.