DOJ sues New Hebron woman for allegedly preparing fraudulent tax returns

Published 5:31 pm Friday, March 7, 2008

The U.S. Justice Department has sued a New Hebron woman to stop her from preparing federal income tax returns, alleging she has generated $3.5 million by falsifying claims for elderly customers.

The government’s complaint alleges that Hazel Harris, who the government said is also known as Hazel Buckley, targets elderly people and claims she is an accountant specializing in refunds for Social Security recipients.

There was no telephone listing for a Hazel Harris or Hazel Buckley in New Hebron. It was not clear if she had hired an attorney.

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The lawsuit was filed after Harris allegedly prepared three fraudulent returns for an undercover Internal Revenue Service agent who posed as a customer.

“Harris prepared returns for the agent claiming Social Security benefits as the only income and then fabricated withholdings to generate fraudulent refunds,” according to a news release Thursday from the Justice Department.

The government estimates Harris has prepared more than 8,000 federal income tax returns for others since 2001.

To get more business, Harris tells potential customers to contact her other clients to hear success stories about the returns she helps people get, according to the lawsuit.

Harris allegedly falsifies claims by reporting only half of her customers’ Social Security benefits as taxable income and then fabricates the amounts of taxes withheld, the lawsuit alleges.

Investigators said Harris has also prepared clients’ returns for multiple years at one time even if there had already been a return been filed for those years.

The complaint also alleges that Harris conceals her role in preparing the returns.

“As today’s complaint shows, the Tax Division will vigorously go after and seek to stop those who cheat the elderly, the IRS, and their fellow honest taxpaying citizens,” Nathan J. Hochman, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, said Thursday.