SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A tax preparer from La Mesa was sentenced Friday to 11 years in prison for his conviction on nearly three dozen counts of filing false claims, identity theft, Social Security fraud and witness tampering.
Saleh Mahmoud Zahran, 50, was convicted of 32 felonies last month at the end of a two-week trial in U.S. District Court in San Diego.
During sentencing, federal Judge Dana Sabraw noted that Zahran was a college-educated, state-licensed tax professional whose background and experience gave him the opportunity to help San Diego's Arabic-speaking community with its federal tax matters.
Instead, Zahran used his skills to gain money illicitly for many years, Sabraw said.
According to evidence introduced at trial, Zahran filed 40 fraudulent federal income tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service, receiving over $81,000 in illicit refunds, and evaded more than $245,000 in federal income tax for 1997 through 2004.
Zahran also held bank accounts and property under false names and fraudulently obtained Social Security numbers, filed false income tax returns that grossly understated income and lied to the IRS about his income and assets, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Zahran obtained Social Security numbers for false identities for himself, as well as his wife, mother, sister and children, prosecutors alleged, and used the names and identifying information of several of his clients' minor children as well as the business names and employer identification numbers of his customers' businesses without their knowledge or consent.
Zahran also was convicted of filing a fraudulent application to obtain medical care under Medi-Cal for 2002, falsely stating that he earned less than $1,000 per month, had only two bank accounts with a cumulative balance of approximately $2,000 and owned no real property.
A restitution hearing to determine the amounts to be paid to the IRS and state welfare agencies in the case is scheduled for April 29.
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