Clients of Cornelius tax preparer find fake jobs on returns, told to pay back thousands
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - According to Aimee Wauter’s tax returns, she runs a catering company. But those 1040′s paint a bleak picture of her business’s future.
“Apparently, I was not very good at my job,” Wauters said.
“It looked like I lost $23,000.”
There was only one problem.
“I’ve never once catered anything in my life,” Wauters told WBTV.
Wauters said she never filed that information on her tax returns. In fact, she lets someone else file her taxes, Michael Prestano of Triple V Tax Services in Cornelius.
WBTV heard from half a dozen of Prestano’s clients who said they only recently learned the returns included fake business expenses or charity donations. They said that in all the years he did their taxes he never sent them copies of returns, never had clients sign them and also took a percentage of their refund, which is in violation of federal law.
His clients provided WBTV with copies of letters they received from the North Carolina Department of Revenue saying their returns for 2018, 2019 and 2020 were under review and that they needed to provide documentation and records Suthenticating their business losses. Losses that don’t exist.
“I started using him, I think in 2015,” Stewart Smith said.
Stewart Smith’s tax returns also had him running an unsuccessful company, an office cleaning business, which he says doesn’t exist.
Those fake businesses and fake losses meant big tax refunds from the state and federal governments. Now, NCDOR has sent bills to some of Prestano’s clients asking for those refunds back, with interest.
“It’s very concerning. We don’t have 5 or $6,000 just laying around to pay back all at once,” Wauters said, whose husband was having his paychecks garnished by NCDOR to pay back the tax refunds.
WBTV went to Prestano’s listed business address after he did not answer phone calls requesting an interview. Eventually, a woman came out and said Prestano “doesn’t make up numbers” and claimed he’s consulting with an attorney. WBTV left a phone number but Prestano still has not contacted WBTV to present his side of the story.
Records obtained by WBTV show Prestano has had his own issues with the IRS and NCDOR before.
Court records show the IRS filed a lien againat Prestano in 2019 for unpaid 1040 taxes from 2015. He owes more than $44,000.
Business records on the North Crolina Secretary of State website show that Prestano, Inc. was previosly suspended for failing “to file any report or return or to pay any tax or fee.”
Secretary of State records also show Prestano filed to form a new company called “Finally Fixed Handyman Services of Lake Norman LLC” on March 31st.
Prestano’s clients are questioning why NCDOR is coming for their money instead of making Prestano pay the state back.
“He really needs to be held accountable,” Wauters said.
Prestano’s clients told WBTV about frustrating calls with NCDOR representatives who were asking for evidence of business losses that didn’t exist.
In an email, a spokesperson for NCDOR wrote they can’t comment on any complaints they have received but “the taxpayer maintains responsibility for all items on their tax return.”
WBTV asked NCDOR why Prestano’s clients are already receiving tax assessments if their review is still ongoing. The spokesperson wrote that an audit and criminal investigation are two separate processes. NCDOR has not announced any charges or even an investigation of Prestano.
“He (Prestano) was the one making up the businesses and making up all these expenses that we didn’t have. So I think it should be him, he should be the one responsible for that,” Smith said.
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