AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRBL) – An Augusta man and his daughter await sentencing after confessing to filling false inflated tax returns on behalf of their clients.

Ezra Hatcher Sr., 68, and Sherry Hatcher, 42, both residents of Augusta, Georgia, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court before a trial, according to U.S. Attorney David H. Estes.

Ezra Hatcher pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States, and Sherry Hatcher pleaded guilty to aiding and assisting in filing false tax returns.

Estes expressed that the public trusts tax preparers to file their returns honestly, and preparers engaging in fraudulent tax filings will not be allowed.

“When citizens seek professional assistance in navigating our nation’s often-complex tax system, professional preparers provide substantial help in completing these necessary tasks,” said Estes. “We and our law enforcement partners will not tolerate the illegal acts of preparers who violate their fiduciary duty as a means to enrich themselves.”

According to court records and testimony, the IRS initiated an investigation into Ezra Hatcher’s and Sherry Hatcher’s tax preparation services. The investigation concluded that from 2014 to 2018, the two knowingly filed 21 tax returns containing false information for seven individuals.

The fraudulent information included Schedule C expenses, income, and earned income credits. The 21 filed tax returns resulted in the IRS issuing excess refunds of almost $75,000.

Ezra Hatcher’s guilty plea subjects him to a possible statutory penalty of up to a five-year prison sentence, and he agreed to pay restitution of $69,682.

Sherry Hatcher’s guilty plea subjects her to a possible statutory penalty of up to a three-year prison sentence, and she agreed to pay restitution of $4,141.

Additionally, Ezra Hatcher and Sherry Hatcher are permanently prohibited from preparing or filing tax returns for anyone else besides themselves.

The IRS-Criminal Investigations investigated the case, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Henry W. Syms Jr. and Jennifer A. Stanley prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.