A federal judge sentenced a Harrisonburg woman to nearly three years in prison for preparing fraudulent tax returns.
Mercedes Rodriguez Varens, 55, was convicted by a 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.
On Wednesday, Judge Elizabeth Dillon sentenced her to 33 months in prison. Rodriguez Varens faced up to 39 years.
Dillon allowed Rodriguez Varens, who is free on bond from the Rockingham County Jail, to remain free and self-report to prison at a later date.
A restitution hearing to determine how much Rodriguez Varens must pay back will be scheduled in the future. Prosecutors say the scheme resulted in a loss of roughly $200,000 to the government.
A grand jury issued the indictment against Varens on Sept. 18, 2018. It was unsealed Nov. 2, 2018, 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.