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In an indictment unsealed today, a federal grand jury in Chicago charged a former Illinois tax preparer with filing false returns for clients, filing false returns on her own taxes, and wire fraud.

According to the indictment, from 2014 to 2019, Erica Early, formerly of Robbins and Richton Park, prepared income tax returns for her clients that included false education expenses and business income, in an effort to secure refunds from the IRS for the clients that they were not entitled to receive. Early, who was employed by the U.S. Postal Service at the time, allegedly charged clients $1,000 or more for each return. Early also allegedly falsified her personal income tax returns for 2014 through 2018, claiming education credits she knew she was not eligible to receive.

If convicted, Early faces a maximum penalty of three years for each count of filing false tax returns and helping clients file false tax returns, and 20 years in prison for each count of wire fraud. She also faces a period of supervised release and monetary penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch Jr. for the Northern District of Illinois made the announcement.

IRS-Criminal Investigation is investigating the case.

Assistant Chief Matthew J. Kluge and Trial Attorney Boris Bourget of the Tax Division are prosecuting the case.

An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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