Update: BP fraud adds to LaPlace woman’s legal concerns

Published 2:47 pm Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Federal grand jury indictment comes ahead of St. John Parish sentencing

LAPLACE — Shawanda Nevers will soon be facing a motion to revoke her appeal bond as the list of local and federal charges mount against her.
Shawanda Nevers

Shawanda Nevers

A federal grand jury charged the LaPlace woman last week with dozens of criminal counts related to a suspected fraud operation that created false tax returns for clients claiming a variety of fraudulent losses and deductions related to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The grand jury sitting in New Orleans returned the indictment May 6, which was unsealed Wednesday.

In February, a six-person St. John the Baptist Parish jury found Nevers guilty of theft of the assets of a person who is aged, according to District Attorney Bridget A. Dinvaut.

The D.A. said Nevers has seven pending felony cases in St. John Parish for theft, issuing worthless checks and monetary instrument abuse.

Federal authorities said Nevers worked as Shawanda Hawkins and Shawanda Bryant while operating a tax return preparation business under several names and at various locations in greater LaPlace.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Department of Justice’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Allen Polite Jr. of the Eastern District of Louisiana announced the charges, which include 37 counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns, eight counts of contempt of court, one count of bank fraud and one count of forgery of a judge’s signature.

According to the indictment, between 2011 and 2016, Nevers filed 37 false tax returns for clients that claimed a variety of fraudulent losses and deductions, including false Schedule C businesses and false unreimbursed employee expenses.

In September 2014, a federal judge permanently enjoined Nevers from preparing federal tax returns. Nevers is charged with contempt of court for violating that injunction by preparing eight federal income tax returns in 2015 and 2016.

Nevers also is charged with forging the signature of a federal bankruptcy judge on a false document purporting to be an order reinstating a bankruptcy petition and with bank fraud for submitting a fraudulent claim for losses supposedly caused by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

If convicted, Nevers faces a statutory maximum sentence of three years in prison for each count of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns, 30 years in prison for the bank fraud charge and five years in prison for the charge of forging the signature of a federal judge. She also faces substantial monetary penalties, supervised release and restitution.

For her St. John conviction, Nevers faces sentencing June 13 with punishment up to ten years in prison and mandatory restitution to the victim. A restitution hearing will also be held on that date.

In that case, according to Dinvaut, Nevers used a “double-your-money” scheme to defraud persons 60 years or older. Nevers approached the victim asking to borrow $20,000 and promised to pay the victim $40,000 in one month’s time.

“However, Nevers failed to make any payment on the date the loan was due and kept the victim’s money for over two years,” a release from Dinvaut’s office said. “The victim repeatedly asked Nevers to return her $20,000 before filing a complaint with the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office. The District Attorney’s office filed formal charges against Nevers on Aug. 8, 2014.”

Assistant District Attorney Justin Lacour led the prosecution, assisted by Shelley Deville and Henri Dufresne in presenting the State’s case. Criminal defense attorney David Belfield III represented Nevers.

Nevers has yet to return any of the assets taken from the victim, Dinvaut said.