Orlando women who prepared 3,600 fake tax returns, grossed $1.4 million sentenced to prison

Two Orlando women who filed over 3,600 fraudulent tax returns and made over $1,000,000 in tax preparation fees have been sentenced to spend multiple years behind bars.

Erotida Natasha Harden Ortiz was sentenced to eight years and Aida Cortes was sentenced to four years and six months in federal prison for conspiracy to defraud the United States and filing fraudulent tax returns. Both women were found guilty in October 2022.

According to court records, Ortiz owned and operated Certified Taxes, LLC, and hired Cortes as the company’s office manager. Prior to opening that company, the two women worked for other tax businesses that had been closed down by the Internal Revenue Service.

From 2016 to 2018, Ortiz and Cortes perpetrated a scheme to file fraudulent Schedule C forms on behalf of taxpayers that showed the taxpayers had incurred business losses. By showing business losses, the individuals qualified for the Earned Income Tax credit and received refunds to which they were not entitled.

Evidence showed that the company never showed tax returns to the individuals for review prior to filing them with the IRS.

In total, the company filed more than 3,600 tax returns with the IRS, with only one tax return resulting in a taxpayer owing money to the IRS. Certified Taxes charged $400 for each return, resulting in more than $1,000,000 in tax preparation fees.

Additionally, during the last year of the company’s operation, Harden claimed an income of approximately $394,000 and filed a fraudulent Schedule C that claimed expenses of $379,000 on her tax return. As a result, she qualified for the Earned Income Tax Credit and received a refund of $6,375.

At sentencing, Harden and Cortes were ordered to repay the IRS $3.796 million in restitution for the fraudulent tax returns.

“Knowingly submitting false documents to the IRS is a crime,” said Ronald A. Loecker, IRS-CI Acting Special Agent in Charge. “The defendants personally benefitted from filing false tax returns for clients and yesterday’s sentence demonstrates that willfully interfering with the integrity of our nation’s tax system will result in fraudsters spending time in prison.”

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