Friday, September 04, 2015

Ninth defendant pleads guilty in tax fraud scheme

(From the U. S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri)

A former Springfield, Mo., woman pleaded guilty in federal court today to her role in a fraudulent tax return preparation scheme that claimed nearly $340,000 in fraudulent income tax refunds.

Heather Nicole Drennen, 32, of Cameron, Mo., formerly of Springfield, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush to making a false and fraudulent income tax return.

Co-defendant Cherie Christine Dupuis, 43, of Springfield, pleaded guilty on July 21, 2015, to leading the fraudulent tax return preparation conspiracy. Dupuis admitted that she and co-conspirators defrauded the government by filing false claims for income tax refunds from February 2009 to March 2012. In the false and fraudulent federal income tax returns they prepared and filed, conspirators claimed refunds from the IRS totaling approximately $340,630, of which approximately $336,839 was false. Over the course of the scheme, the total actual tax loss to the IRS was $284,169.

Dupuis admitted that she filed fraudulent federal income tax returns in her own name and for at least 19 other individuals. Dupuis would usually split the fraudulent refunds with her co-conspirators. The total amount of the false claims Dupuis personally prepared and/or filed was approximately $298,708, with approximately $256,281 being paid on these false claims and a loss to the government of approximately $213,711.

Drennen admitted that she filed a false federal income tax return for the 2011 tax year using another person’s identity, including that person’s name and Social Security number. This 2011 federal income tax return falsely listed wages that had not been earned and federal income tax withholdings that had not been withheld. As a result, Drennen fraudulently received a $5,592 income tax refund.

Drennen is the ninth defendant to plead guilty to her role in the scheme. In addition to Dupuis, co-defendants Johnny L. Cooper, 28, and Jeannie Marie Rhodes, 34, both of Springfield, Shawna Marie Hughey, 37, of Joplin, Mo., formerly of Springfield, William J. Coonce, 29, of Otterville, Mo., Jeannette R. Dunn, 48, of Huntsville, Ark., formerly of Springfield, Asia Michelle Couchman, 26, of Oak Grove, Mo., and Delbert L. Allen, 37, of Pleasant Hope, Mo., formerly of Springfield, have also pleaded guilty.

Under federal statutes, Drennen is subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000 and an order of restitution. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven M. Mohlhenrich. It was investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation.

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