Mississippi Tax Preparers Sentenced for Fraudulent Tax Return Scheme

Published 11:42 am Thursday, February 29, 2024

Several tax return preparers from Mississippi have been sentenced to prison for their involvement in a conspiracy to prepare and file false tax returns for clients in Jackson.

Adam Earnest received a 100-month prison sentence, James Klish was sentenced to 50 months, and John Wells was sentenced to 15 months. Additionally, each individual must serve three years of supervised release and pay restitution to the United States, with the exact amount to be determined by the court.

Two other conspirators, Christopher Rendell and Jonathan Barefoot, are awaiting sentencing.

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The convictions stem from a scheme conducted at Sunbelt Tax Service, a tax preparation business in Jackson. Earnest, Klish, and Rendell were found guilty by a federal jury of conspiring to defraud the United States by preparing false tax returns. Earnest and Rendell were also convicted of preparing such returns. Wells and Barefoot pleaded guilty before the trial to crimes related to preparing and filing false tax returns for clients.

According to court documents and evidence presented in court, the individuals worked together to claim inflated tax refunds for clients by reporting false education credits, itemized deductions, and business profits or losses on their tax returns. Their actions resulted in over $3.5 million in tax loss to the IRS.

Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division announced the sentences.

The case was investigated by the IRS Criminal Investigation unit, with prosecution led by Trial Attorneys Patrick Elwell, Zachary Cobb, and Mary Frances Richardson of the Tax Division.