ASHEVILLE — A former correctional officer from Burke County entered a guilty plea in federal court earlier this month.
Charles Wakefield pleaded guilty in federal court on Sept. 6 to filing a false tax return and aiding and abetting the filing of a false tax return, according to federal court documents.
The court documents said that, while Wakefield was employed as a prison guard, he would take time off from his employment during tax season from at least 2011 through 2016 to offer his tax preparing services to coworkers and others.
Wakefield built a reputation as a tax preparer who could ensure a large refund, and prepared at least 699 individual income tax returns from 2011 to 2016, the court documents said. At least 71 of those returns were false and fraudulent and were designed to minimize federal income tax liability and maximize tax refunds for his clients.
Those 71 fraudulent tax returns meant the federal government lost at least $252,919, the court documents said.
One of the ways Wakefield ensured his clients received the maximum refund and minimized tax liability was by creating fake businesses and filing non-existent business losses, according to the court documents.
Through his business as a tax preparer, Wakefield was charging an average of about $117 for each income tax return he prepared and made at least $80,000 in additional income, but he never reported the income on his own tax returns, the court documents said.
When he filed his own tax returns, Wakefield used the same methods he used for clients’ tax preparations, costing the federal government about $40,429, the court documents said.
All of the tax preparation work was done from Wakefield’s home in Burke County, the court documents said.
Wakefield is awaiting a sentencing date which has not been announced. He could face up to three years in prison , said IRS Special Agent Jennifer Velez.
Chrissy Murphy is a staff writer and can be reached at email@example.com or at 828-432-8941. Follow @cmurphyMNH on Twitter.