South Florida

Bad tax day: Feds act against 2 in South Florida accused of filing fraudulent returns

In this March 22, 2013 file photo, the exterior of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building in Washington. Audits by the IRS led to civil action Monday against 2 tax preparers in South Florida.
In this March 22, 2013 file photo, the exterior of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building in Washington. Audits by the IRS led to civil action Monday against 2 tax preparers in South Florida. AP

Tax preparers Rose Chazulle and Eli St. Phard filed thousands of tax returns on behalf of other people out of their South Florida businesses before federal authorities started noticing problems.

Both individuals are accused of churning out return after return with overstated refunds and false claims to tax credits, according to civil lawsuits filed Monday — the day tax returns were due — by theDepartment of Justice.

The lawsuits are the result of IRS audits of Chazulle, who runs her business out of Allapattah, and St. Phard, who worked in Lauderdale Lakes.

After learning he was under investigation, St. Phard began filing returns under a different name, filing about a thousand more until 2015, according to the Department of Justice.

“Eli St. Phard is a paid tax return-preparer who prepares returns that understate his customers’ tax liabilities and/or overstate the amount to be refunded by fabricating deductions for business expenses and falsely claiming credits to which the customers are not entitled,” an attorney for the government wrote in the complaint.

According to the complaint, an audit of 340 returns of the more than 3,132 returns St. Phard prepared since 2009 showed that all but five were understated — a total of more than $1.8 million.

Many of St. Phard’s customers now must pay the government for the difference, the DOJ said.

Chazulle is accused of claiming false education and fuel tax credits on behalf of her clients, many of whom were hotel and hospitality workers. Her business, RMC Professional Services, also prepares immigration forms and divorce and child support paperwork. Chazulle also runs a nail salon next door.

The suit estimates that Chazulle’s actions cost the U.S. more $14 million for the tax years 2011 to 2013.

Chuzelle was not available for comment, according to someone who answered the phone at her business Monday afternoon.

In a March 31 DOJ press release warning the public about tax fraud, Caroline D. Ciraolo, acting assistant attorney general for the Tax Division, said: “Taxpayers might think that they’re getting a good deal on their taxes, or that as long as someone else prepares the return, they’re not responsible. They’re wrong.”

“Taxpayers who have their return prepared incorrectly are required to pay the tax they owe, or pay back the refund they weren’t entitled to get,” she wrote. “These clients might also owe interest and penalties, which can be substantial.”

Messages left for Eli St. Phard were not returned Monday. A search on of Florida Corporations shows that St. Phard’s E.S.T. Tax Services has been inactive since 2014. It was not clear if he was still operating.

Carli Teproff: 305-376-3587, @CTeproff

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