- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 11, 2004

A former tax preparer who lives in the District yesterday avoided prison time for filing false federal tax returns for herself and 10 clients claiming more than $500,000 in tax credits for slavery reparations.

Rebecca J. Forsyth, 57, of Northeast, was sentenced to five years of probation by U.S. District Court Judge John Bates. She pleaded guilty Feb. 19 to one felony count for assisting in false statements to the Internal Revenue Service and faced up to three years in prison.

She also was ordered to pay $233,435 in restitution, the amount paid out by the IRS in fraudulent funds, and to perform 300 hours of community service, said Channing Phillips, spokesman for U.S. Attorney Roscoe C. Howard Jr. Mr. Phillips said Forsyth was credited for $43,209, which she already had repaid.

Judge Bates was lenient on the defendant because she is the primary caretaker for her 22-year-old son, who has Down syndrome, IRS spokeswoman Mary Fran Martin said.

“The judge told her that he granted the [reduced sentence] not as a benefit to her, but to her son,” Mr. Phillips said.

“I guess I can’t complain with the sentence,” Forsyth said yesterday. “I do have regrets that other people have been subjected to the undue stress of having to pay back money to the IRS.”

In the 1970s, Forsyth, who is now retired, worked for two tax seasons of 10 weeks each as a tax preparer for H&R; Block and subsequently prepared returns for acquaintances, prosecutors said.

In 1999 and 2000, Forsyth told black clients that she could claim slavery reparations as tax credits for them on their federal income-tax returns amounting to $43,209 if they were single and $86,418 if they were married, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Forsyth prepared fraudulent federal income-tax returns with total false claims amounting to $561,717, and the IRS issued $233,435 in refunds on those claims.

Forsyth filed for the credit knowing there was no law or IRS regulation allowing it, prosecutors said. Because the disbursements were made to actual taxpayers, the IRS is attempting to recover the money.

Since 1999, similar cases in Dallas and Sherman, Texas; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Richmond and Alexandria have resulted in sentences ranging from two to 13 years.

Robert Lee Foster and Crystal Demetria Foster were sentenced in Richmond on Oct. 23, 2003 to 13 years and 37 months in prison, respectively, after being convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States by filing false tax claims for reparations.

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