Not Guilty on all 30 Counts
Mr. Sergio Gardea has been an accountant and tax return preparer for close to 20 years. The IRS computers determined that a high percentage of the tax returns prepared by Mr. Gardea for his clients claimed the Child Care Tax Credit and/or the Additional Child Care Tax Credit.
The IRS decided to commence a criminal investigation against Mr. Gardea. The IRS caused an agent to visit Mr. Gardea's office in Akron, Ohio posing as a new client. The agent told Mr. Gardea that the children he sent money to lived in Mexico. The conversation was secretly recorded. Mr. Gardea told the agent that in order to claim the children as dependents he had to provide over 50% of their support. Mr. Gardea refused to prepare the form for the Child Care Tax Credit because the children did not live with the taxpayer in the United States.
The Special Agents began visiting and calling clients of Mr. Gardea. Mr. Gardea's office prepares over 400 tax returns each year. The agents located approximately 15 taxpayers, who had their tax returns prepared at Mr. Gardea's offices, who were not United States citizens. These particular taxpayers admitted that they took the Child Care Tax Credit on their individual income tax returns but, the children that they claimed to support did not live with them in the United States. When questioned by the IRS special agents, each of the 15 taxpayers represented that they did not know that to properly claim the Child Care Tax Credit the children had to live with them in the United States.
The special agents also asked each of the 15 taxpayers if Mr. Gardea had explained the rules and requirements for the Child Care Tax Credit to them. Each of the 15 taxpayers said: "No".
The United States indicted Mr. Gardea on 30 separate counts of filing false income tax returns for the 15 individual taxpayers.
Following a two week jury trial, the foreperson handed 21 pages of paper. These papers held the jury's 21 verdicts on the 21 counts that remained following the government dismissing 9 counts during the trial. The Court reviewed the forms and authorized the clerk to publish the verdicts by reading them aloud. The clerk read aloud: "In the case of United States v. Sergio Gardea, * * * as to count one we the jury find the defendant NOT GUILTY." This was followed by a similar announcement for each of the other counts. Each time there was tension followed by joy. I glanced over at Mr. Gardea sitting next to me. I believe I could see two years of stress and worry being removed from his mind. His family and friends were in the courtroom sitting behind him. The setting was surreal.