Nipomo woman sentenced for filing fake tax returns, collecting refunds

A Nipomo woman was sentenced to three years in federal prison for her role in a tax fraud scheme that involved stolen identities as well as submitting false tax returns in order to get a $1.6 million loan.

The Internal Revenue Service announced Monday that Imelda Sanchez, 42, was sentenced in federal court in Los Angeles to 36 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $845,000 in restitution to the IRS and Mission Community Bank.

Sanchez pleaded guilty in February 2013 to one count of making false claims against the government and one count of making false statements on a loan application.

According to the IRS, between 2005 and 2009, while working as a bookkeeper and tax preparer in Santa Maria, Sanchez used names and Social Security numbers of relatives and clients to file fake tax returns that claimed refunds of the earned income tax credit, which Sanchez then deposited into her own bank account.

In total, Sanchez filed 39 fake tax returns and collected nearly $125,000 in false refunds.

In 2007, Sanchez also drastically overstated her income on false personal tax returns in order to secure a $1.6 million construction loan from Santa Lucia Bank, which has since merged with Mission Community Bank, which has been acquired by Heritage Oaks Bank. Two years later, she submitted more fake returns in order to refinance the loan.

The scheme cost Santa Lucia Bank more than $721,000.

Sanchez is scheduled to begin her sentence on Sept. 26.