- January 10, 2022
TAMPA — A Pinellas County tax preparer faces five years in prison after pleading guilty to filing false tax returns for clients that netted more than $5.2 million in unearned refunds.
Eurich Z. Griffin III, whose age was not disclosed in court papers, agreed to plead guilty to one charge of defrauding the U.S. government and, along with time in federal prison, faces a $250,000 fine and up to three years of parole when released. He may also be forced to provide restitution.
Three other charges against him will be dropped at sentencing, according to court papers.
Prosecutors say that Griffin, using multiple businesses, offered tax-preparation and consulting services to clients he’d recruited, filing false returns on their behalf. Most of these clients, who Griffin would find at seminars and on social media, were deep in debt.
Griffin would create false IRS Form 1099s showing large, but fictious, amounts of federal tax withheld by the client’s mortgage company and submit the forms to the Internal Revenue Service. These forms were then used to prepare clients' personal tax return which would show large refunds were due. He would then file the tax forms in person at the IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center on 49th Street N. in St. Petersburg.
The clients were charged a fee for the preparation and agreed to hand over a piece of the refund to Griffin.
One example cited in the plea agreement shows that a 1099 was created to show a mortgage lender had withheld $160,000 in federal tax and that the taxpayer was owed — and received — a $56,546 refund. The truth was, the person only had $443 in federal taxes withheld for the year and owed the IRS $5,071.
In several instances, the Internal Revenue Service attempted to claw back returns. Griffin responded by sending the government cease-and-desist letters and forged money orders and promissory notes saying the debt had been paid.
Griffin was able to obtain $5.2 million in unearned refunds for clients between 2013 and 2018. The faked promissory notes and money orders totaled $1.3 million.
One of the business Griffin used in the scheme, according to the plea agreement, is Temple of Awareness.
On its website, Griffin is listed as its founder and says he offered “specialized services providing commercial remedies including but not limited to mortgage, tax, debt collection and other related commercial matters.” In addition to that, he also offered health and wellness products such as residential water ionizing machines
Griffin “began his journey in 2000 through the practice and in-depth studies of metaphysics and spiritual awareness,” according to the website. “It was during this time, the introduction to the truth of our status as individuals in this country, contract laws, the court systems, laws and practices of the Internal Revenue Service, as well as the United States Treasury, had been revealed.”
A sentencing date has not been set.