Hempstead tax preparer gets 3-year probation

Sherrece Durrant-Gardner, 36, pleaded guilty and was sentenced Sherrece Durrant-Gardner, 36, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 3 years of probation for filing fake tax returns to get refunds from the Internal Revenue Service, the tax agency said April 10, 2013. Photo Credit: Nassau County, 2011

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A Hempstead tax preparer's scheme to use prisoners' Social Security numbers to file phony tax returns backfired when the prisoners got angry about not being paid, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance said Wednesday.

Sherrece Durrant-Gardner, 36, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years of probation for filing fake tax returns to get $30,000-plus in refunds from the Internal Revenue Service, the tax department said.

Durrant-Gardner, who was arrested on Dec. 15, 2010, had worked at the Roosevelt Jackson Hewitt tax preparer franchise. Through an acquaintance imprisoned at an upstate corrections facility, she obtained names and Social Security numbers of the prisoner's fellow inmates with a promise of $250 to each, said tax department spokesman Geoffrey Gloak. She then filed false tax returns.

But when Durrant-Gardner failed to pay the other prisoners, they blamed her contact at the prison, he said.

"Apparently he became concerned for his well-being and went to the prison authorities," Gloak said.

The franchise owner, Edward Esteve, said he didn't know anything about her crime until she was arrested and she was not hired again.

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A call to her lawyer was not returned Wednesday.

Durrant-Gardner's sentence was announced Wednesday along with the names of seven other tax preparers who have been charged or sentenced for tax filing fraud.

"These preparers -- the few among the many -- appear to have engaged in various forms of criminal behavior in order to obtain fraudulent refunds and reduce the amount of income taxes that their clients had to pay," tax department Commissioner Thomas Mattox said in a news release.

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Two other Long Islanders, owners of two related Queens-based tax preparation services, also pleaded guilty in separate frauds, the department said. Albert Adams of Baldwin and Walter A. Cordero of Garden City pleaded guilty to falsifying information on clients' returns and agreed to pay the state restitution of $150,000 and $100,000 respectively, according to the release. Messages left for Adams and Cordero weren't returned.

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