TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Tampa tax preparer will serve three years in prison for his role in a fraudulent tax scheme that stole over $1.6 million from the IRS.

The U.S. Department of Justice said that Thomas Johnson, the owner of a tax preparation business in Seffner, helped create false income tax returns for his clients from 2015 to 2017.

Officials said these returns had false entries concerning “education credits that his clients were supposedly owed and Schedule C business losses for businesses that his clients denied having.”

Johnson was involved in over a thousand income tax returns that resulted in the overpayment of tax refunds to his clients. In total, this caused a loss of $1,688,931.90 for the IRS, according to the DOJ.

The DOJ release said Johnson would hide his activity by listing other people as the preparer of the false returns. He would also require that his client split the refunds with him after the IRS processed the returns.

“While most tax return preparers provide excellent service to their clients, it only takes a few dishonest return preparers to negatively impact thousands. IRS-CI works year-round to investigate fraudulent return preparers and protect the American taxpayers’ money,” said IRS-CI Acting Special Agent in Charge Ronald A. Loecker. “Return preparers must comply with the same tax obligations as the clients they serve. No one is above the law.”

Johnson pleaded guilty to his crimes on Oct. 20, 2022. He was sentenced to three years in prison.