With the filing deadline less than a month away, income taxes are on the minds of many this time of year. While Houston area residents are gathering the documents needed to complete their income tax returns, two residents are facing the consequences for pleading guilty of filing fraudulent tax returns.

The men were charged in federal court with the conspiracy to commit mail fraud and conspiracy to submit false claims. As a result of their convictions, the men are facing harsh penalties. When they are sentenced later this year, they could each be fined $250,000. In addition, they could each be sentenced to 30 years in prison.

The men were accused of using the Social Security numbers and names of many people without permission to file at least 266 tax returns. As a result of those fraudulent filings they sought approximately $1,296,710 in refunds. Before being arrested, they had received around $544,846 in payments. The investigation into the matter was conducted by the IRS-Criminal Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

It is unclear what caused the two men to enter guilty pleas. At times individuals facing criminal charges choose this course of action rather than a trial because it could result in sentences that are more lenient than they would face if found guilty in the course of a trial. Because the consequences can still be serious however, such a decision should not be made without discussing the matter with someone who understands how the criminal judicial system works. In most cases a criminal defense lawyer is of great help.

Source: Your Houston News, “Two convicted in stolen identity tax refund fraud scheme,” March 18, 2014