Although she received a sentence below the state guidelines, a former Fair Oaks tax preparer will be spending the next three years in prison. She is Thuy Tien Le, 40, who learned her punishment last Friday, July 18, in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.
She’d pleaded guilty April 30 to preparing false income tax returns and committing wire fraud. Le admitted to committing these crimes while running her Fair Oaks-based, tax-return preparation business called T2 Advantage Services LLC.
“Over 100 clients of hers were victims,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Nathanson. “And they were particularly vulnerable because they didn’t speak English. She caused them pain and stress that will continue as they try to straighten out their finances.”
In a statement of facts filed with her plea agreement, Le, now of Sterling, admitted that, from 2005 through 2013, she owned and operated her business out of her home on 12808 Madeley Court in Fairfax. She prepared federal income-tax returns for her clients and led them to believe she’d electronically filed legitimate returns with the IRS.
But before filing these returns, she altered them by adding false itemized deductions so she could generate large income-tax refunds. But instead of this money going to her clients, it instead went into her own pockets.
Le told federal authorities she’d prepared and filed the false income tax returns without her clients’ knowledge or consent and that she had their refunds deposited electronically into her own bank accounts. She further admitted that the IRS sustained $454,455 in losses because of what she’d done.
The investigation into her suspected criminal activities began in early July 2013 when Fairfax County police received a report from a resident that Le had prepared their income taxes. That person received the prepared documents, including a statement indicating exactly what federal and state refunds to expect.
Shortly thereafter, say police, the resident “was in the process of refinancing a mortgage and discovered that the tax documents the mortgage company obtained from the Internal Revenue Service were different than the ones Le provided to [him or her].”
Detectives, working with IRS special agents, eventually pieced together the details and extent of Le’s illegal actions. Police arrested her Aug. 6, 2013, later turning over her case to federal authorities.
In court Friday, defense attorney Richard MacDowell said Le told him she “[allegedly] suffered from domestic abuse from her minor son’s father” and her mother is unable to take care of that son, who’s 8. So he asked U.S. District Court Judge Claude Hilton to consider giving his client a sentence below the 57-71 months guidelines or probation.
“Le’s acts were done in part to flee domestic violence and to keep the family’s finances together,” said MacDowell. “She’s already been punished. In 2007-08, they were victims of a Ponzi scheme and lost over $250,000. She’s had to file bankruptcy and lost properties.”
He also said paying restitution will be a “huge burden” for her in the future. “Paying $23,000/year, without interest, will take her 20 years,” said MacDowell. “She’s lost so much already. For her son’s welfare, she asks for probation or house arrest.”
But, countered Nathanson, “She has a history of recidivism. She committed fraud in the 1990s against the Fairfax County Federal Credit Union and [later] against the Fairfax County welfare program. And all the fraud proceeds [from her most-recent offenses] went into her bank account.”
Before sentencing, Le stood and apologized, saying, “I’m sorry for all the pain and stress I caused my family and clients, and for defrauding the government.” She then asked Hilton to consider letting her stay home to take care of her son.
But he declined to do so and, instead, sentenced her to prison. For preparing false income tax returns, he sentenced her to 36 months incarceration, followed by one year of supervised release. For the wire-fraud charge, the judge gave her another 36 months, plus 3 years supervised release.
Hilton then ran the sentences concurrently, for three years total to serve, on the condition that Le make $200/month restitution payments, beginning 60 days after her release. “I’ll waive the interest,” he said. “And I’ll recommend a [penal] facility near Northern Virginia.”
Afterward, MacDowell called the sentence “understandable, under the circumstances.”