Durham, North Carolina - A New London, North Carolina, woman was sentenced to 14 months in prison Tuesday for federal employment tax fraud, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Matthew G.T. Martin for the Middle District of North Carolina.
According to court documents, from approximately 1992 through at least September 2016, Terra Ferguson was employed as an office manager at a pediatric office in Randolph County, North Carolina. As office manager, Ferguson had complete control over the office’s finances. Ferguson was also responsible for collecting, accounting for, and paying over to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) payroll taxes that were withheld from the wages of the business’ employees. From March 2011 through September 2016, Ferguson withheld approximately $78,937 in payroll taxes from employee paychecks and willfully failed to pay that money to the IRS. Ferguson also failed to pay $35,472 for the employer’s share of employment taxes. Instead of paying these taxes to the IRS, Ferguson paid her personal credit card bills, funded personal business ventures involving a mountain cabin rental and a bar, paid for personal vacations, and issued checks to herself totaling $1.4 million, all from the business’ bank account.
Additionally, Ferguson prepared false individual income tax returns for her employer that falsely underreported gross receipts and inflated mortgage interest deductions, causing an additional tax loss of over $250,000. The total tax loss resulting from Ferguson’s fraudulent conduct is approximately $374,101.
On May 17, 2019, Ferguson pleaded guilty to one count of failing to collect, account for, or pay over payroll taxes for the employment tax quarter ending Dec. 31, 2015.
In addition to the term of imprisonment imposed, Ferguson was ordered to serve three years of supervised release and to pay $374,101 in restitution to the IRS.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Zuckerman and U.S. Attorney Martin commended special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, who investigated the case, and Trial Attorneys Mara Strier and Alexander Effendi of the Tax Division and Assistant United States Attorney Frank Chut, who prosecuted this case.