Charlotte Tax Preparer Is Sentenced To More than Five Years For $3 Million Tax Fraud

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IRS,Tax Check,Filing Taxes,Tax Deadline
IRS,Tax Check,Filing Taxes,Tax Deadline

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – U.S. District Judge Robert J. Conrad Jr. sentenced Andrivia Wells, 54, of Charlotte, today to 70 months in prison for tax fraud, announced William T. Stetzer, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Wells, who also goes by the names Tina Smith, Tina Harris, Andrivia Smith, and Andrivia Harris, was also ordered to serve one year under court supervision and to pay $3,373,595 as restitution.

Mona Passmore, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI), Charlotte Field Office, joins Acting U.S. Attorney Stetzer in making today’s announcement.

According to filed court documents and today’s sentencing hearing, beginning in at least 2011 and continuing through June 2019, Wells owned and operated Rush Tax Service, a return preparation business with multiple locations in Charlotte. Between 2013 and 2017, Wells prepared, or caused to be prepared, more than 6,000 tax returns that falsely claimed more than $3 million in refunds. Wells and Rush Tax Service received over $1.2 million in fees from her clients. The tax preparation fees were taken directly from the clients’ tax refunds and in many cases the clients were unaware of how much they were being charged, which was frequently more than $500.

Court records also show that Wells prepared income tax returns for clients for 2013 through 2018 that claimed false filing statuses, false American Opportunity and education credits, and false fuel tax credits, among others, in order to inflate refunds paid by the IRS. In addition to filing fraudulent income tax returns for her clients, Wells falsified her own income tax returns by underreporting the fees she earned in her tax preparation business for tax years 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017, and in 2018, she failed to file any tax return with the IRS.  In addition, her 2012 through 2017 tax returns also falsely claimed American Opportunity credits and fuel tax credits, and the incorrect filing status. 

On May 17, 2017, after being notified she was the subject of a criminal investigation and after being served a summons for records of Rush Tax Service, a fire was intentionally set at Rush Tax Service’s Beatties Ford Road location.  The fire destroyed client files, financial records, and computer hardware. Subsequently, a grand jury subpoena was served on Rush Tax Service for records. It was at a February 2019 grand jury appearance that the government was first alerted to the May 2017 fire. After the indictment was returned on June 20, 2019, Wells was arrested and detained. On June 30, 2019, a second fire was intentionally set destroying Rush Tax Service documents that were responsive to the grand jury subpoena. At today’s sentencing, the Court found that Wells obstructed the administration of justice with respect to the investigation and prosecution of the offense and stated that this was “one fire too many.” As a result, the Court also found that Wells did not accept responsibility for her crimes.

In announcing today’s sentence, Judge Conrad said Wells “showed a profound disrespect for the law” and that “the tax structure breaks down when taxpayers and tax preparers” file false tax returns.

Wells pleaded guilty to aiding and assisting in the filing of false tax returns and filing a false tax return.

Acting U.S. Attorney Stetzer commended IRS-CI for their investigation of the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Caryn Finley with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte prosecuted the case.

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