Arizona immigrant-rights activist Elias Bermudez was charged Oct. 3 with 27 counts of aiding in the preparation of false tax returns, according to a grand-jury indictment filed in the U.S. District Court of Arizona.
Bermudez, founder of Immigrants Without Borders and owner of El Centro de Ayuda, is accused of advising taxpayers to claim unqualified dependents to gain tax-credit deductions, according to a court filing.
Bermudez encouraged taxpayers to claim dependents who lived in Mexico and did not receive the minimum amount of financial support to qualify for the $1,000 Additional Child Tax Credit, according to the filing.
The indictment references 27 tax filings between 2010 and 2012 that included inaccurate numbers of dependents, according to the court document. The tax loss totaled $131,651.
Bermudez, contacted by The Arizona Republic on Friday, said he was unaware of the indictment but wasn’t worried.
He said he has cooperated and provided documents.
He said he would get his day in court.
“They will find I did not do anything to hurt my people,” he said.
“I’m a person who likes to get into controversy,” Bermudez said, adding that there are thousands of tax preparers in Phoenix. “Why are they after me?”
Bermudez, now in his mid-60s, said he operates El Centro de Progreso tax preparation in Phoenix and Tucson.
A dozen years ago, he was was at the forefront of debates in Arizona over immigration. He founded the advocacy group Immigrants Without Borders and helped organize marches in boycotts.
A judge in Maricopa County in 2009 sanctioned Bermudez for providing legal advice without a law license at El Centro de Ayuda and ordered him to stop advising immigrants and helping them prepare legal documents. To avoid violating that order, Bermudez stopped speaking out.
That wasn’t his first brush with the law. Bermudez was mayor of San Luis, a border town near Yuma, in the 1980s. In 1996, he was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for laundering drug-trafficking profits for his brother-in-law.
Bermudez maintains his innocence.
Bermudez’s arraignment is set for 10 a.m. Oct. 18.
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