2021 | Courts

Tax preparer sentenced to more than two years in prison

She helped file fraudulent returns for six years, authorities say

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A tax preparer from Montgomery Village was sentenced to two years and three months in prison on Wednesday after she helped file false tax returns on behalf of clients for six years, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Maria Espinal, 53, owned a tax preparation business in Gaithersburg and fraudulently prepared and filed returns on behalf of clients from 2011 to 2017, according to a press release.

The returns, which went to the IRS and the Maryland comptroller’s office, claimed refunds that Espinal’s clients were not entitled to, authorities said.

According to the press release, Espinal made changes to W-2 forms by changing the name of a third party to her client’s name, which allowed clients to claim the third parties’ withholdings as their own.

Espinal also put up a sign in her office in Spanish that said “If you have lost your [identification] number or passport we have these people,” and listed identifying information for multiple people, according to the press release. Authorities said Espinal filed a tax return using someone else’s personal information to generate a fraudulent refund that she claimed for herself.

Espinal’s 27-month prison sentence will be followed by supervised release, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. She must also pay $106,066 in restitution.

Courtney Forrest, an attorney who represented Espinal, could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com