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Former Valley CPA indicted for ID theft, wire fraud

Posted at 2:03 PM, Jul 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-21 12:08:14-04

A former Valley certified public accountant has been indicted on 24 counts by a federal grand jury after allegedly keeping the tax refunds of his clients, according to court documents released on Thursday.

Erik Allen Ketelaar is charged with aggravated identity theft, wire fraud and mail fraud stemming from several tax related businesses he owned across the Valley. 

The indictment accuses Ketelaar of “a scheme to defraud his clients and the IRS” by having client tax refunds electronically deposited into bank accounts that he controlled and keeping the money for himself.

We first learned about his tax preparation business, Tio Sam, in 2014, when clients complained that they were not receiving their refunds even though the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) showed them as having been paid.

Our Let Joe Know investigation uncovered more than 150 internal documents which appeared to show that many of Tio Sam’s clients were being charged the exact amounts of what their expected refunds would have been. 

Tio Sam client Natalie Casas told us she was one of them. She expected $4,307.

“They assured me that it would be a couple of weeks,” she said. She received a check that has Ketelaar signature on it, but the bank said the account had no funds.  We spoke to another client Araceli Flores says she was owed $1200.

Tio Sam, one of Ketelaar’s several tax businesses marketed itself almost exclusively to the Spanish speaking population. The company was to charge $249 to prepare client taxes, and often the refunds were deposited into Tio Sam’s account. At that point the company was supposed to take their payment and issue a check to the client for the rest.

READ: Clients of Valley tax business still waiting for 2013 refund

The indictment accuses Ketelaar of forging client signatures on some refund checks and cashing them through a third party.  It also says as more people began to complain Ketelaar “began to doctor his billing records to retroactively increase his tax preparation fees to the point where the fees consumer the total amount of the expected income tax refunds.”

In 2014 Ketelaar told us he “had some quality control issues with bank accounts and invoices and would like to rectify the situation.”

He also said, “several employees and managers misrepresented the company and not preform [sic] to their fiduciary duty.”

In all the indictment says Ketelaar received nearly $400,000 in client tax refunds “that he knowingly and intentionally withheld from clients” between 2013 and 2014.

In April 2015, Ketelaar lost his CPA license after client complaints to the Arizona Board of Accountancy against his businesses Tio Sam and Ketelaar accounting.

Ketelaar’s arraignment in federal court is set for Wednesday August 2, 2017 at 10 a.m. inside the Sandra Day O’Connor US Courthouse.