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Published on April 23, 2024
Chicago-Area Tax Preparer Sentenced to Prison for $1.3M IRS Fraud SchemeSource: Library of Congress

A Chicago-area tax preparer will be swapping her calculator for a prison jumpsuit after being sentenced to a year and a day behind bars for concocting a false tax return scheme. Vervia Watts, hailing from Lansing, ran a business that left the IRS out roughly $1.3 million, according to court records.

For more than six years, from January 2017 through June 2023, Watts took it upon herself to falsely increase education expenses and to invent business income on over 900 tax returns. Her motive was pure green: to illegitimately beef up refunds for her clients — and, by extension, her own wallet by at least $300 per return. The duped IRS was conned into coughing up around $1.3 million in fraudulent refunds before Watts got snagged.

U.S. District Judge Lindsay C. Jenkins didn't just slap her with jail time. The aftermath of Watts' conviction, as announced by the Justice Department, includes a one-year term of supervised release and a hefty restitution bill totaling approximately $1,349,314 to the IRS.

The Tax Division's Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg termed the investigation as a firm crackdown on "those who would to recklessly undermine the integrity of our tax system." According to the Justice Department's announcement, IRS Criminal Investigation took point on the case, which was brought to trial by Attorneys Meredith Havekost and Regina Jeon of the Tax Division.