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Joliet tax preparer pleads guilty to defrauding Illinois

Staff Writer |
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced that a Joliet tax preparer pled guilty to charges of filing fraudulent tax returns and defrauding the state out of more than $400,000.

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Gerrie Cokenour of Joliet, pleaded guilty to laundering money derived from a felony tax preparation fraud scheme and was sentenced to 42 months in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

The sentence will run concurrent to the 18-month federal prison sentence Cokenour is currently serving after pleading guilty to federal tax fraud charges.

In February, Madigan’s office charged Cokenour and Nycole Simms-Stevens, 43, also of Joliet, with theft of government property over $100,000 and entering false information on hundreds of Illinois income tax returns. Simms-Stevens’ case is currently pending.

Cokenour and Simms-Stevens worked for Tax Advocators Inc., a Joliet tax preparation business owned by Cokenour. Between 2012 and 2015, Cokenour and Simms-Stevens allegedly prepared 764 fraudulent state income tax returns.

Tax returns allegedly contained inflated and fraudulent property tax data and other fraudulent deductions, which cost the state more than $400,000.

“The defendant stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the state for her own benefit,” Madigan said.

The case was initiated after Madigan’s Consumer Fraud Bureau received complaints from consumers related to undisclosed tax preparation fees and stolen income tax refunds.

The investigation was conducted by the Illinois Department of Revenue’s (IDOR) Criminal Investigations Division with assistance from the Joliet Police Department and the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office.

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