By Bill Robinson
In his time as a tax preparer who solicited clients largely from among employees of defense contractors, Richmond tax preparer J.R. Kennedy victimized more than 1,000 of them.
The number of victims was supplied by Kyle Edelen, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Lexington.
Edelen said the federal prosecutor’s office, which employs victim and witness specialists, have kept Kennedy’s known victims informed of how his case progressed.
Victim specialists help victims prepare statements to the court on the impact a crime had on them or their families and assists them in seeking restitution from perpetrators, Edelen said.
Kennedy, 58, who ended his three-day federal trial Aug. 29 by pleading guilty to one count of preparing false tax returns, had been indicted on 23 counts.
He was scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 21, but Kennedy’s attorney was granted a delay until May 16.
Court documents obtained through Pacer, the federal justice system’s online service, gave no reason for the delay signed Feb. 8 by Judge Karen K. Caldwell.
If Kennedy is sentenced May 16, just over four years and one month will have passed since April 15, 2009, when IRS criminal investigators raided Kennedy’s Second Street office that faced the Madison County Courthouse.
An anti-tax protest by adherents of the then-new tea party movement was underway in front of the courthouse as the raid took place, leaving some participants to wonder whether it had been staged to intimidate them.
Kennedy was taken into federal custody in South Carolina in late April 2011, more than two years later. He was released by a federal court in Greenville, S.C., under a $25,000 unsecured bond, court documents show, and has remained free since.
He was represented by a public defender then, but attorney Derek Gordon of the Lexington firm Anggelis and Gorden filed the motion to delay Kennedy’s sentencing.
According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney after his guilty plea, Kennedy’s offer carried a maximum of sentence of three years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
When he was released on bail, Kennedy listed his employer as Lockheed Martin in Greenville, S.C.
Many of Kennedy’s former clients, who have followed news of his case on the Richmond Register’s website, said he marketed his services to them because they, like him, were employed by defense contractors. He told his customers he knew how to obtain tax deductions based on their special circumstances.
One caller said his supervisor used Kennedy’s services and recommended him highly.
Former Kennedy clients said they worked for defense contractors in South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and California as well as Kentucky.
After many customers’ returns were audited by the IRS, some Kennedy clients learned he had claimed charitable or other deductions on their behalf, unbeknownst to them. The deductions were used to obtain larger tax refunds than they were due.
However, Kennedy gave clients copies of returns without the bogus deductions, which indicated they would receive smaller refunds. He then wrote them checks for the smaller refunds and pocketed the difference when he was sent the refunds by the IRS, the customers said.
This left the victims exposed to tax liabilities and penalties ranging as high as $50,000, at least one of them said.
The IRS was unsympathetic to the financial difficulties in which Kennedy’s fraud had put them, they said.
The portion of the plea agreement available to the public stated Kennedy cannot appeal his conviction and required him to cooperate with government investigators.
However, the Pacer database indicates there also is a sealed supplemental plea agreement that is not accessible to the public.
Bill Robinson can be reached at editor
or at 624-6690.