Oct. 5—DES MOINES — Federal prison sentences were handed down last week to a father and daughter from Ottumwa over a tax preparation scheme that spanned four years and resulted in millions in fraudulent residential energy credits.
The U.S. Department of Justice said that 47-year-old Thein Maung (also known as Joseph Ramarn) received 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to 49 fraud- and tax-related charges. His 21-year-old daughter Phyo Mi (also known as Phyo Ramarn) was sentenced to 9 years following a jury conviction on 16 fraud-related charges.
The scheme perpetuated by the two resulted in nearly $4 million in losses to the Internal Revenue Service, Iowa Workforce Development and numerous Iowa citizens.
For several years the father and daughter combo operated a fraudulent tax-preparation business out of their Ottumwa home. According to prosecutors, the two would prepare and file customers’ tax returns for a cash fee, and primarily catered to immigrants and refugees who worked at meat-packing facilities and had little or no ability to read, write or speak English.
Maung and Mi would include fraudulent items on customers’ federal tax returns, including false claims to residential energy credits, business-expense deductions or moving-expense reductions for members of the United States Armed Forces. The effect of these actions increased the refunds clients received and increased their customer base.
The two filed more than 1,600 tax returns from 2018 to 2022. In that period, the two received cash fees exceeding $200,000 from their customers. Additionally, the two sometimes directed portions of fraudulent refunds be sent to bank accounts maintained by themselves.
Maung and Mi also assisted with filing unemployment benefit claims with the Iowa Workforce Development, and without their customers’ knowledge or approval had benefit payments sent to accounts controlled by Maung and Mi.
“This sentence should send a strong message to any return preparers who are looking to cheat innocent taxpayers and the U.S. government that a prison cell awaits them,” said Special Agent in Charge Thomas F. Murdock, IRS Criminal Investigation (CI), St. Louis Field Office. “Maung and Mi preyed on people who were vulnerable. CI special agents do not take this kind of fraud lightly. Our law enforcement partners worked diligently to help us bring these two to justice.”
Following prison terms, Maung and Mi will be on supervised release for three years. The federal prison system does not offer parole.
The Ottumwa Police Department and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation investigated the case.
Kyle Ocker is the editor of the Ottumwa Courier and the Oskaloosa Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.