Person County Couple Pleads Guilty to State Tax Charges; Receives Active Sentence

Date: 5/15/2006

RALEIGH – A Roxboro couple pleaded guilty Monday in Wake County Superior Court to felony tax charges filed by the North Carolina Department of Revenue.

Cheryl Ann Costanza, 48, of 55 Rosemary Creek, Roxboro pleaded guilty to seven counts of aiding or assisting in the preparation of fraudulent state income tax returns. Joseph B. Costanza, 30, pleaded guilty to one count of obtaining property by false pretenses.

Wake County Superior Court Judge Henry W. Hight, Jr., sentenced Cheryl Ann Costanza a seven-week active prison term as part of her 32-month minimum, 40-month maximum prison sentence. The remainder of the sentence was suspended and Mrs. Costanza was placed on supervised probation for 36 months. She was ordered to pay a $50 criminal fine and was forbidden to prepare tax returns during her probation.

Joseph Costanza was ordered to serve a seven-day active prison term as part of his eight-month minimum, 10-month maximum sentence. The remainder of his sentence was suspended and he was placed on supervised probation for 36 months. Mr. Costanza must pay $425 in restitution and perform 50 hours of community service.

The state’s evidence showed that Mrs. Constanza had been in the tax preparation business for the past 25 years. During 2004, she created false wage and tax statements for at least seven clients. She used the false statements to prepare fraudulent income tax returns, which were filed in an attempt to receive larger refunds than the individuals were entitled to receive.  Her employer, Jackson Hewitt, fired Mrs. Constanza after discovering that she was submitting the fraudulent returns. She also prepared a false income tax return for her husband for the tax year 2004, which he knowingly signed and filed.

The charges against Cheryl Ann and Joseph Costanza resulted from an investigation by a special agent with the Department of Revenue’s Criminal Investigations Division.

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