Ex-tax preparer gets year on work release in fraud

Man cashed refund checks mistakenly sent by IRS

April 19, 2001|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

A former Baltimore tax preparer who admitted cashing more than $160,000 in Internal Revenue Service refund checks mistakenly mailed to his St. Paul Street office was sentenced yesterday to 12 months in a federal work-release program.

U.S. District Judge Herbert N. Maletz also ordered James Elwood Lewis Jr. to pay restitution and serve two years' supervised release, closing one of two criminal cases that grew out of what investigators described as an exceptional blunder by the IRS.

For most of the 1990s, the agency wrongly mailed hundreds of corporate tax refunds to a rowhouse at 2429 St. Paul St., where Lewis had a first-floor office. Investigators said the misdirected checks proved too great a temptation for Lewis and, in a separate case, four other Baltimore men who pleaded guilty to federal bank fraud charges.

Lewis, 45, had worked for a payroll processing company, with power of attorney for more than 3,000 corporations, before he opened a tax preparation business at the St. Paul Street rowhouse in 1989.

IRS computers failed to realize that he no longer represented the companies and kept mailing refund checks to his office.

Lewis, now a car salesman in Newport News, Va., pleaded guilty in August to one count of bank fraud.

He said he forged endorsements on more than 100 checks between February 1991 and January 1993 to feed a drug and gambling problem.

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