Joliet tax preparer gets 42 months in prison for fraud

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A southwest suburban tax preparer has been sentenced to 42 months in prison after pleading guilty to defrauding the state out of more than $400,000.

Gerrie Cokenour, 42, pleaded guilty to laundering money derived from a felony tax preparation scheme, according to a statement from the Illinois Attorney General’s office.

Cokenour and 43-year-old Nycole Simms-Stevens, both of Joliet, were charged in February with theft of government property and entering false information on hundreds of Illinois income tax returns, according to state prosecutors. Simms-Stevens’ case is currently pending.

Cokenour owned Tax Advocators Inc., a Joliet tax preparation business that Simms-Stevens worked for, according to prosecutors. Between 2012 and 2015, they allegedly prepared 764 fraudulent state income tax returns. The returns contained inflated property tax data and other fraudulent deductions, which cost the state more than $400,000.

Cokenour was sentenced to 42 months in prison. The sentence will run concurrent to the 18-month sentence she is currently serving after pleading guilty to federal tax charges, prosecutors said.

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