Woman charged in tax fraud scheme involving Richland deputies' disputes charges

Woman charged in tax fraud scheme involving Richland deputies' disputes charges

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The attorney for Maribel Crespo is disputing claims by Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott.

Crespo is the central figure in a tax fraud scandal that led Lott to fire five of his deputies this week.

Crespo was well known to the sheriff. She worked for him for seven years in the department's warrants division before he fired her for engaging in identity theft and official misconduct.

That was four years ago.

But Lott said Crespo was back into other forms of criminal behavior through home-based businesses. And she's had several.

Richland County investigators said Maribel Crespo was preparing tax returns and selling counterfeit merchandise out of her home on Grandview Circle in the Summit area of northeast Richland County.

At the home they seized tax documents, what they say, was bogus-branded merchandise and a computer.

Warrants WIS obtained show an undercover officer purchased a fake Rolex, a pocketbook and wallet with the Hello Kitty character on them.

Crespo's attorney said she made it clear to her buyer the stuff she was selling was not the real thing.

Even so, investigators say they recovered at least $50,000 worth of counterfeit items.

During the probe, they also picked up Crespo bragging about getting big refunds for deputies by adding non-existent dependents to their returns.

"They would claim dependents that were somebody that they didn't even know that they couldn't legally claim as a dependent," Lott said during a news conference Thursday. "She would put names on the tax returns and social security numbers of the people she'd created. We also discovered she was making false identities and false ID's. She had a very large business of creating fraud."

The counterfeiting investigation led Lott to fire five of his deputies and charge them with tax fraud.

Lott said more deputies might face the same charges.

Crespo's attorney Todd Rutherford is denying the fraud claims against his client.

He also said she routinely bought merchandise from legitimate manufacturers and re-sold it legally.

Crespo is free after posting a total of $150,000 in bonds.

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