ST. LOUIS, Mo. – The IRS has a new fraud warning this tax season. In the last few weeks, two local tax preparers were sentenced in federal court for filing fraudulent returns.

“These tax preparers are taking advantage of taxpayers that don’t ask the right questions,” said Tyler Hatcher, special agent in charge of IRS criminal investigation at the St. Louis field office.

In 2021, the office investigated six cases that led to federal charges against local tax preparers. Earlier this month, two more people were sentenced for federal tax crimes.

“We aggressively pursue these fraudulent tax preparers because it costs the government and, in turn, innocent taxpayers millions and millions and millions of dollars every single filing season” Hatcher said.

On March 3, Robyn “Tiffany” Roberts was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in federal prison after pleading guilty to two counts of wire fraud, two counts of aggravated identity theft, and five counts of tax fraud in connection with her work as a tax preparer at Roberts Tax Professionals. Court documents say Roberts caused the overpayment of more than $400,000 in tax refunds by preparing fraudulent tax returns.

“In that case, they filed bad returns in the name of people that didn’t come to them to file returns, or they used their identities in a way that was not permissible by that taxpayer,” Hatcher said.

On March 15, Candice Belger was sentenced to 12 months in prison and ordered to pay nearly $280,000 in restitution for preparing fraudulent tax returns for clients as a tax preparer for A1 Tax Service. According to court documents, Belger prepared and filed at least 22 false tax returns on behalf of clients.

“Putting things on returns that shouldn’t be on there. Education credits. Putting things in there for businesses that these taxpayers didn’t own, therefore increasing the size of the refund,” Hatcher said.

Hatcher has this advice for taxpayers.

“These people work for you, you can ask questions; and you should be asking questions,” he said.

For a list of questions to ask your tax preparer and more information to help you avoid becoming a tax fraud victim, visit IRS.gov.