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WOMAN POSTS BAIL IN TAX CASE.

Byline: Bhavna Mistry Daily News Staff Writer

A Palmdale tax preparer who was indicted for filing false tax returns for herself and her clients pleaded not guilty to federal charges Monday and was freed on bail, a federal attorney said.

After surrendering to federal authorities Monday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Shela Gilford, 39, entered the not guilty plea before being freed on $50,000 bail.

``The indictment states that the she improperly claimed a fuel credit,'' said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the United State Attorney's Office.

Gilford was indicted April 7 on three counts of preparing false tax returns under her name and the names Shela Alexander and Shela Winston. She also was accused of five counts of preparing false tax returns in the name of clients.

The 39-year-old woman, who was a tax preparer in the South Bay area, allegedly claimed under her name and two aliases that she purchased nearly 75,000 gallons of gasoline in 1992 and 1993 and was entitled to more than $10,000 in tax credits, Mrozek said.

During the same years, Gilford allegedly filed false claims for three clients that they bought more than 75,000 gallons of gasoline and were entitled to more than $10,000 in tax credits, Mrozek said.

For another client, Gilford is accused of filing a false claim that the client's business lost money when the client did not own the business, federal officials claim.

``A common scheme is that a tax preparer will offer refunds to people who are not entitled to them or more credits than they are entitled to,'' Mrozek said. ``In general, they will split the refund with the taxpayer.''

Sometimes, however, the tax preparer has the check sent to his or her home or office, and the taxpayer is not aware of any wrongdoing, he said.

Officials said the grand jury looked into the case after Internal Revenue Service investigators reviewed Gilford's tax return and suspected fraud.

Gilford could face up to 24 years in federal prison and fines up to $800,000 if she is convicted.

Officials said the IRS Criminal Investigation Division regularly aims to expose false tax refund schemes.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 11, 1999
Words:364
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