A woman from the west coast of Newfoundland is on the hook for more than $600,000 for filing false tax returns on behalf of bogus companies.
In provincial court in St. John’s Wednesday, Marlena Chaisson Ljepava was fined $324,472.20 — almost as much as she has to pay back to Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
The 46-year-old — who is originally from Cape St. George on the Port au Port Peninsula — pleaded guilty to two counts of making false documents.
She had originally faced 18 charges, including several counts of fraud over $5,000 and unlawfully obtaining a tax rebate. However, Crown prosecutor Neil Smith withdrew most of the charges in exchange for guilty pleas.
Ljepava wasn’t in court, but was represented by her lawyer, Jeremy de Jong.
Judge Pamela Goulding agreed on the fine based on a joint recommendation from Smith and de Jong.
Ljepava has 25 years to pay back the money, at a rate of 1,081.58 a month.
According to the agreed statement of facts, between June and December 2009, Ljepava was a director of Contract Management International Services Inc. and filed quarterly GST/HST returns, claiming refunds totalling $315,736.86. Of that amount, $313,833.74 was paid out by CRA.
She was also a director of Your Assisted Living, Cape St. George Inc., Your Help Services Inc., and CMIS Cargo Inc. For these companies, she received $32,352.83 in tax rebates.
A CRA investigation determined that while the companies were registered, none of them operated during or provided services and existing solely on paper. Therefore, they were not entitled to tax credits.
In addition, Ljepava was in a partnership which she told the CRA auditor was set up to operate a home decor business. The partnership filed GST/HST returns between March 31 and June 30, 2010, claiming refunds totalling $8,735.43. No amount was actually paid out by CRA on these returns.
The investigation determined the partnership did not have a licence to operate and did not generate any sales during that period.
There were amounts claimed based on fictitious receipts, and some items were deliberately misclassified in order to claim Input Tax Credits on personal expenditures.
A review of the invoices in the seized records and the audit file indicated that the purchases were not consistent with a home decor business, but were purchases required to renovate and furnish a house.
Total refunds claimed through these illegitimate businesses amounted to $356,825.12.
To date, CRA has recovered $27,726.13 from Ljepava through its civil collection activities, leaving $286,107.61 owing.