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Tax fraud conspirator gets 6 years

A Lincolnton man has been sentenced to six years behind federal bars and required to pay millions of dollars in restitution money for his role in a tax fraud conspiracy.

Because the case was prosecuted by federal authorities, 30-year-old Harold Gonzalez Roque has no hope of obtaining parole according, to a Department of Justice press release Tuesday from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of North Carolina.

Four other individuals in the case each pled guilty two years ago to two conspiracy counts and one-count of aggravated identity theft for their involvement in a fraudulent tax scheme that targeted Puerto Rican residents authorities said. Roque’s sentencing follows his plea in February.

Suspects who entered guilty pleas in 2009 included Jose Peralta, 32, of Shelby, Miguel Loria, 37, of Lincolnton and Richard Varela, 22, and Marino Martinez, 50, both of Gastonia.

A federal grand jury indicted all five suspects in November 2008.

Federal authorities said the five co-conspirators stole Puerto Rican identities and Social Security numbers in order to file false tax returns and claim more than $12 million from local businesses throughout Lincoln and Gaston County.

They specifically collected more than $2 million from La Libertad, a Lincolnton money service business that authorities said Loria “owned and operated,” along with a similar business in Gastonia known as “L.D.”

North Carolina and New York addresses were among various locations in multiple states that the suspects had tax returns mailed.

In addition, a majority of the returns were sent to residences where mailboxes were clustered together authorities noted.

The suspects engaged in the criminal acts between January and November 2008.

Each was also sentenced to three years of federal supervision following their prison terms and must pay the IRS restitution money in the amount of $12,342,177.

Of the five suspects, Peralta received the longest incarceration period, 98 months, followed by Loria’s 63-month term and a nearly four-year term for both Valera and Martinez according to North Carolina’s U.S. Attorney General’s Office.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark T. Odulio, of Charlotte’s U.S. Attorney’s Office, served as lead prosecutor. In addition, several law enforcement agencies investigated the case including the IRS, Gastonia Police Department, United States Postal Inspection Service and United States Secret Service.

Five other Lincoln County residents have been charged in a similar tax fraud scheme and have each pled guilty to one-count of “false claims conspiracy” according to a previous Times-News report.

The suspects are also charged with stealing Puerto Rican identities and Social Security numbers in an effort to file false tax returns authorities said.

Lincolnton residents Nelson Jimenez, 41, Xiomara Amparo, 33, and Mildred DePena, 48, entered guilty pleas in August while Dania Ramos, 35, and Jose de Jesus (a.k.a. Jose Ramos), 28, both of Vale, entered guilty pleas a month prior.

The five conspirators were among seven total individuals indicted by a grand jury in March for stealing $5 million in IRS funds between January 2010 and February 2011.

Both Arileyda Amparo, 31, of Lincolnton, and Johan Vargas, 23, of Hickory, remain at-large. A sentencing date has yet to be determined in the case.

Authorities revealed that Puerto Rican residents are often targeted by such criminals because they’re not required by U.S. federal law to file tax returns if their incomes stem exclusively from sources in the Spanish-speaking commonwealth.

In addition to catching preparers of fraudulent tax returns, the Tax Division of the United States Department of Justice investigates a variety of tax-related cases including tax defiers, secret foreign bank accounts and abusive corporate tax shelters, among others, according to the department’s website.

Staff Writer

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