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Judge orders $24,000 in restitution paid for false state tax filings

WAILUKU — A former tax preparer has been ordered to pay more than $24,000 in restitution for helping prepare false 2014 state tax returns.

Nicole Rapoza, 29, of Lahaina also was ordered to finish serving a six-month jail term as part of four years’ probation.

She was sentenced Thursday after she earlier had pleaded guilty to 14 counts of helping prepare false 2014 state tax returns. In exchange for her pleas, the government dismissed 12 other counts of aiding and abetting false and fraudulent tax returns.

When 2nd Circuit Judge Richard Bissen asked why she committed the crimes, Rapoza said, “I had nothing to gain. It was a mistake that I shouldn’t have done.”

In 2016, Rapoza had been given a chance to keep convictions off her record for similar charges related to her filing three years of false tax returns.

Rapoza said the charges in both criminal cases occurred about the same time.

“It’s not something I want to do again,” she said. “I’ve changed my whole field and career.”

When first asked, Rapoza said she didn’t get kickbacks from taxpayers whose returns she helped prepare.

Deputy Attorney General Darrell Wong said an investigation showed Rapoza helped prepare returns for 26 taxpayers who received larger refunds than they were entitled to. He said one or two of the taxpayers gave kickbacks to Rapoza, according to the investigation.

Rapoza then said she remembered that.

“They got more because of your actions and you got more,” Bissen said to her.

Although a plea agreement between the state and defense called for Rapoza to pay $24,153 in restitution, Wong said “the actual tax harm” was $40,000. He said about $13,000 of that was collected from taxpayers, leaving about $26,000 owed.

Rapoza said she was working and could afford to pay $450 to $500 a month in restitution.

Rapoza had spent more than five months in jail before her boss posted her bail “because she has been such a good employee for them,” said Deputy Public Defender Selina Swatek.

Rapoza was allowed to serve the rest of her jail term on her days off from work.

In her 2016 case, her deferral was set aside and she was found guilty.

Judge Bissen ordered Rapoza to pay $24,574 in restitution at the rate of $500 a month.

Wong said Rapoza still owes more than $14,000 in restitution in her earlier case.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.