Ramona tax preparer arraigned on 49 federal counts

By Neal Putnam

Bail was set at $350,000 Monday for a Ramona tax preparer after he was indicted on 49 federal charges including identity theft, mail fraud, making false tax returns and money laundering.

Steven Martinez, 49, was arrested Friday by agents with the Internal Revenue Service and he spent the weekend in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in San Diego. U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy announced Friday he was indicted by a federal grand jury.

Martinez pleaded not guilty before U.S. District Court Magistrate Mitchell Dembin, who ordered Martinez to return to court in May for motions. Assistant U.S. Attorney Phil Halpern asked Martinez to be held on $500,000 bail.

Halpern said Martinez has another home in Mexico and bank accounts in other countries.

Martinez was an IRS agent for 3-1/2 years, and has been tax preparer since 1992, said Halpern.

Attorney David Denergian represented Martinez and told the magistrate his client has 25 years of local ties to the area. He urged a lesser amount of bail and said Martinez would make court appearances.

Dembin ordered Martinez to wear a GPS electronic monitoring device if he is able to post bond. He also ordered Martinez to observe a curfew and he must be in his Rosemont Lane residence in Ramona every day from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Martinez, wearing a white jail jumpsuit, agreed to the conditions. His wife was in the audience.

The indictment alleges that Martinez stole $11 million in tax payments that should have been sent to the IRS. It alleges that Martinez had some clients write checks for taxes into the name of a client trust account instead of directly to the IRS or the California Tax Board.

The indictment alleges Martinez filed a different set of tax returns for his clients that showed they owed little or no income tax.

Martinez is alleged to have deposited these checks into bank accounts in the names of fictitious entities. According to the indictment, Martinez used these funds for a multi-million dollar home in Ramona, an airplane, a boat, tips to Super Bowls, and vacations in Mexico.

Martinez has also pleaded not guilty to 12 counts of committing Social Security fraud, and 14 counts of procuring false tax returns. There are six mail fraud counts, 12 counts of aggravated identity theft, four counts of making false tax returns, and one money laundering charge.

   
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