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Gavel and cuffs

ST. LOUIS • A St. Louis County tax preparer was sentenced to 18 months in prison Thursday for filing 44 fraudulent tax returns that cost the government $213,950, the U.S. Attorney's office said.

Rahman Watson, 40, of Florissant, ran Watson Accounting and Services LLC in St. Louis County, and from January 2007 to 2011, found clients who agreed to allow him to file federal returns with bogus income information that would qualify the client to receive refundable Earned Income Tax Credits. Watson would then split the money with the client.

Watson's tax service attracted the attention of the IRS because of his high rate of refund returns, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Albus wrote in a court memo. An undercover IRS agent then posed as a taxpayer, and caught Watson boasting of the "free money" available from the government, Albus wrote.

A raid of Watson's home later found $50,000 cash, which will go towards repaying the $213,950 that Watson owes from the 44 returns, prosecutors said.

He has also agreed to a ban from preparing tax returns.

Watson pleaded guilty in January to filing a false tax return and identity theft.

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