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Tax preparer pleads guilty in fraud

Case centers on IRS returns, USDA farmer bias claims by Dale Ellis | January 21, 2021 at 3:31 a.m.

A Dallas area tax preparer pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service after participating in a scheme that rerouted more than $11.5 million intended to benefit farmers who had been discriminated against.

Jerry Green, 40, of Grand Prairie, Texas, pleaded guilty Tuesday before Chief U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall, who will sentence Green at a later date, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney's office in Little Rock.

Green admitted preparing at least 82 false tax returns as part of a scheme to defraud the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 1997, a group of Black farmers filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that they had been discriminated against when they applied for farm credit, credit servicing, or farm benefits from the USDA.

A similar lawsuit alleged that Hispanic and female farmers also experienced discrimination in USDA farm benefit programs. Both lawsuits were settled and resulted in a claims process where farmers could make claims for financial relief by showing they had applied for participation in a USDA benefit program and had been denied. Successful claims resulted in an award of $62,500. Of that, $50,000 would be made payable to the claimant, and $12,500 would be transferred directly to the IRS as a tax withholding.

Green admitted in court that he was hired by co-defendant Rosie Bryant of Colleyville, Texas, to assist with filing false tax returns for Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation claimants. In November 2013, Green opened his own tax preparation business, Jiffy Tax, and met with Bryant and her sisters, Lynda Charles of Hot Springs, Delois Bryant of North Little Rock, and Brenda Sherpell of Gainesville, Texas, all of whom are now co-defendants in the case.

Green said in court that he and the four women reached an agreement in which Jiffy Tax would prepare fraudulent tax returns for Hispanic Women's Farmers and Ranchers claimants in exchange for a payment of $550 per fraudulent return. Green filed $4,615,009 in false returns, the U.S. attorney's office said.

Green and the co-defendants were indicted by a federal grand jury in December 2019 in a 40-page, 115 count indictment. The indictment alleges that Little Rock attorney Everett Martindale also worked for the sisters by depositing claim checks into his law firm trust account, issuing a check from that trust account to the claimant, and withholding his attorney fee -- which he would then split with the sisters.

Most of the charges in the indictment are against the women, with Charles facing 106 charges that include mail fraud, filing false tax returns, money laundering, conspiring to defraud the government and tax evasion; Rosie Bryant faces 109 similar charges; Delois Bryant faces 114 of the same charges except for filing false tax returns; Sherpell faces 90 charges, including mail fraud, conspiracy and filing false tax returns.

Charles' daughter, Niki Charles, was also named in the indictment charged with eight counts of mail fraud. Martindale faces eight charges of aiding and abetting mail fraud.

Green was charged in the indictment with one count of conspiracy to defraud the government.

According to the U.S. attorney's office, Rosie and Delois Bryant, Lynda and Niki Charles, Sherpell, and Martindale are to go to trial early next year.

A related, civil forfeiture case has been delayed while government and defense attorneys prepare for a complex trial expected to last up to two months. The civil case, filed in October 2019, involves seven properties in Little Rock, North Little Rock and Texas that the U.S. attorney's office says were purchased with proceeds of the fraud scheme.

The property includes a house and a lot in the Rockwater Village area of North Little Rock; a house at 105 E. F Ave. and an adjacent structure at 3600 John F. Kennedy Blvd., both in North Little Rock; a house at 8117 Doyle Springs Road in Little Rock; and two homes in Texas -- one in Colleyville and one in Euless.

The complaint alleges that because the properties were bought with proceeds of crimes, they should be surrendered to the government. Meanwhile, the women have claimed their ownership of the properties is lawful and have asked that forfeiture request be denied.

Information for this article was contributed by Linda Satter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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