HARRISBURG — Today, Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced the arrest of a tax preparer charged with scamming and stealing over $76,000 from clients by claiming he was filing their tax returns with the state and federal governments – and then pocketing their money and never filing their returns.
The Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations arrested Nick J. Chacanias, 55, of the 400 block of Pine Street, Slatington, Thursday and filed criminal charges relating to a three-year scam that Chacanias perpetrated on eight different clients who live or work in York, Dauphin, Cumberland and Perry counties.
Chacanias was charged with theft by deception, forgery and related charges. Investigators allege Chacanias received 72 checks from his clients totaling $76,800.86 over a three-year period between 2012 and 2015, all for the purpose of filing state and federal tax returns for the clients. In several cases, Chacanias also received checks to file incorporation documents for some clients. The tax returns were never filed and neither were the incorporation papers.
“These thefts and forgeries are particularly egregious because the clients scammed by this defendant trusted him with their personal financial information,” Attorney General Shapiro said in announcing Chacanias’ arrest. “They relied on him to prepare their returns and pay their taxes to the Commonwealth and the federal government. Instead, he scammed them and stole their payments. It’s a breach of trust and a serious crime.”
In six cases, Chacanias forged tax filings to make it appear to his clients as if he had filed their tax returns with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue or the Internal Revenue Service when in fact, he never filed their returns. The time-stamped tax returns he showed his clients were forgeries. One client was scammed out of $32,000 by Chacanias, and another was scammed out of $21,400. The other clients sent him varying amounts, all totaling $76,800.
“These thefts and forgeries are particularly egregious because the clients scammed by this defendant trusted him with their personal financial information,” Attorney General Shapiro said in announcing Chacanias’ arrest. “They relied on him to prepare their returns and pay their taxes to the Commonwealth and the federal government. Instead, he scammed them and stole their payments. It’s outrageous.”
Chacanias owned and operated various companies as part of his scheme. The companies were known as C&M Accounting and Tax Solutions, Inc.; C&M Accounting and Tax Solutions; and NJC Tax and Accounting Services. The businesses were located in York.
Shapiro urged consumers to take some basic steps to protect themselves and their financial information when filing their taxes or using a tax preparation service. “Check out the tax preparer online – see if they have a website and seem legitimate,” Shapiro said, adding that consumers should read reviews from other consumers before choosing a tax preparer. The attorney general noted that consumers should also check with the local chapter of the Better Business Bureau to learn if any complaints have been filed against a vendor.
Chacanias was preliminarily arraigned on the charges before Magisterial District Judge Jeffrey L. Oberdorf in York. Bail was set at 10 percent of $15,000, and a preliminary hearing was scheduled for May 18, 2017.
The Bureau of Criminal Investigations in the Office of Attorney General worked cooperatively on this case with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue’s Bureau of Criminal Tax Investigations. The case was referred by Perry County District Attorney Charles Chernot III. Attorney General Shapiro praised law enforcement’s cooperation on the case. “We uncovered this complicated tax preparation scam because law enforcement worked closely together,” he said. “We thank the Department of Revenue and District Attorney Chernot for all their assistance.”