HARRISONBURG — A Harrisonburg woman awaiting sentencing for preparing fraudulent tax returns asked a judge Thursday to allow her to travel to Cuba to assist her ailing mother.
Mercedes Rodriguez Varens, 55, was convicted by a federal jury in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg on March 7 on 13 felony counts of aiding or assisting the preparation of fraudulent or false statements.
Sentencing is set for Nov. 13. Varens faces up to 39 years in prison but is free from the Rockingham County Jail on a $10,000 bond.
In a motion filed by her attorney, Varens states that her 88-year-old mother, who is a Cuban national, resides in the United States.
However, the motion states, the mother needs to return to Cuba for medical care that’s too expensive in the U.S. and to retrieve retirement money from the Cuban government.
The motion states that Varens would be the only one that would be able to take the mother to Cuba.
As of Friday, prosecutors haven’t responded to the motion, nor has Judge Elizabeth Dillon set a hearing date.
A grand jury issued the indictment against Varens on Sept. 18, 2018. It was unsealed Nov. 2 upon her arrest.
Prosecutors say Varens knowingly prepared false tax returns from 2012 to 2013.
Court documents don’t state where she was employed, but an online search showed she is associated with CDL Inc. on Old Furnace Road.
Federal authorities say she prepared tax returns with roughly $165,000 in deductions for which the taxpayers didn’t qualify.
In one case, in March 2013, according to the indictment, Varens filed a tax return for a client for tax year 2012. Prosecutors say Varens claimed false unreimbursed employee expenses totaling $21,292.
In other tax returns, according to the indictment, Varens falsely claimed dependents for clients and misrepresented their filing status as heads of households.
It’s unclear if the clients knew she falsely prepared the returns. Prosecutors declined to comment.