GREENSBORO — A Winston-Salem woman convicted for her role in a tax-fraud scheme that resulted in a $1.3 million loss to the Internal Revenue Service will spend about two years in prison.
Claudia Lynette Shivers, 44, pleaded guilty in August 2018 to one count of conspiring to defraud the United States by filing false tax returns. Federal prosecutors said she conspired with several other people in the tax-fraud scheme and that she also trained people on how to manipulate information on tax returns to guarantee large tax refunds.
Shivers is the fourth person to be sentenced in the tax-fraud scheme in the past year, and federal prosecutors said in court Monday that they are planning to seek indictments on two additional people.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge William Osteen sentenced Shivers to one year and nine months in federal prison. She also has to pay $38,266 in restitution. Shivers must report to federal prison on Aug. 26, and when she gets out of prison, she will be on supervised release for three years. While on supervised release, she is prohibited from helping others to prepare taxes.
According to court documents, the tax-fraud scheme operated partly out of Fast Tax of Winston-Salem on Liberty Street. Shivers and two other people also owned Quick Taxes, LLC in Greensboro.
Prosecutors alleged that Shivers and three other people — S. Wayne Patterson, Kristyn Dion Daney and Rakeem Lenell Scales — prepared 519 false tax returns for Fast Tax and Quick Taxes that claimed $1.3 million in tax refunds.
Patterson, past president of the Winston-Salem NAACP who was a former magistrate and former lawyer, pleaded guilty to his role and was sentenced to 13 months in federal prison. Daney was sentenced to about nine months in prison. That sentence began on Saturday. Scales was placed on three years of probation. Patterson, Daney and Scales were each ordered to pay restitution of various amounts.
Two images of Shivers emerged Monday during a hearing in U.S. District Court that lasted nearly two hours. One image, provided by federal prosecutors, was of a woman compelled by greed to start several tax-preparation businesses in Winston-Salem and elsewhere and to lead a tax-fraud scheme that targeted poor people, often single mothers.
But her friends and relatives called to testify gave a different picture. They described a woman who raised five children on her own, one of whom serves in the U.S. Navy, and who has worked to be an asset to her community by volunteering for various organizations such as the Winston-Salem Urban League Young Professionals.
Her father, Lawrence Shivers Sr., said her daughter is the primary caretaker of both him and her grandfather. She makes sure that he and her grandfather get the medication they need, he said.
“She is an asset in whatever community she is in,” he said in court. “She’s raised five children by herself without any assistance.”
Shivers also has run for political office, unsuccessfully challenging Vivian Burke in 2009 for her council seat.
Osteen struggled to square that portrait of Shivers with the crime she has admitted to committing — tax fraud. He said he had no doubt that Shivers was a good person who had done extraordinary things in her community.
“Also extraordinary is a $1.3 million tax-fraud scheme that Ms. Shivers instigated,” through training, he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lauren Castaldi told Osteen that even after a search warrant was executed on one of Shivers’ tax-preparation businesses, she continued to prepare and file fraudulent tax returns and helped open another tax-preparation business.
Castaldi argued that what Shivers did was premeditated — she opened her tax-preparation businesses, recruited customers and trained employees on how to file fraudulent tax returns. And the whole time, she said, Shivers knew what she was doing was wrong.
Shivers’ attorney, Micah Huggins, said, however, that there’s no evidence Shivers became rich from the tax-fraud scheme, and Shivers has learned her lesson.
Castaldi disputed that. She said that tax-preparation businesses charged $225,000 in fees. Those fees were divided among the partners, and Shivers’ share was about $40,000, she said in court.
Shivers said in court that she has learned a lot through the process, and if she had the chance to do it over again, she would never have started a tax-preparation business to begin with.
“It’s been a year since this whole process started,” she said. “Today, I maturely accept whatever (punishment) you give.”