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Dead people were claiming tax refunds and the children of strangers were listed as dependents.
Besides seeing dead people, investigators also spotted deductions for businesses that don't exist, inflated commissions and identity theft of people living in Puerto Rico, frequent victims of such scams because they have social security numbers but don't have to file federal tax returns, prosecutors said.
Exactly a week before the April 15th tax filing deadline, authorities on Thursday announced "the largest coordinated takedown of tax preparers in history" calling it, what else, "Operation Brass Tax."
Undercover IRS agents posed as clients and recorded some of the defendants promising to concoct fake business losses and inflate other deductions, prosecutors said.
"In a criminal twist on the old proverb about death and taxes, some of the defendants charged today allegedly even filed for tax refunds using the identities of dead people," said Preet Bharara, Manhattan U.S. Attorney.
Six of the charged tax preparers remain at large while 16 were arrested Thursday and were expected to appear in Manhattan Federal Court, officials said. Four others had been charged previously and will face the new accusations at a later date, officials said.
With reporting by Alice McQuillan, Hasani Gittens and Jonathan Dienst