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Tarzana accountant pleads guilty to fraud charge for helping client fraudulently obtain $1.2 million COVID-related business loan

A San Fernando Valley certified public accountant pleaded guilty to a federal criminal charge for helping a long-time client fraudulently obtain a $1.2 million COVID-19 business loan by knowingly preparing a false corporate tax return on the client’s behalf.

Bernard Turk, 73, of Tarzana, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, a crime that carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

According to court documents, Turk is a certified public accountant who runs a tax preparation business in Tarzana. In February 2021, Turk helped a long-time client submit a false application for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan on behalf of the client’s company, Agency 126, a purported marketing and video production agency based in Irvine.

PPP is a government-backed loan program designed by Congress to help small businesses stay afloat and keep their workforces employed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specifically, Turk prepared a false federal corporate income tax return, claiming that Agency 126 paid employees $5,383,401 in wages during the 2019 tax year. Turk provided the false 2019 tax return to his client to submit to a bank to support the PPP loan sought by the client. To hide his involvement, Turk marked the false tax return “self-prepared.”

Turk admitted that both he and his client knew that Agency 126 had no employees, paid no wages, and never filed tax returns with the IRS.

The client electronically submitted the false tax return that Turk prepared to the Small Business Administration and the bank in support of Agency 126’s fraudulent PPP loan application. On the false 2019 tax return submitted to the bank, the client removed the “self-prepared” designation and replaced it with Turk as the preparer.

Relying, in part, on the false tax return, the bank and the SBA approved and funded Agency 126’s PPP loan and wired $1,212,312 to a bank account that the client controlled. For his role in the scheme, Turk was to receive a percentage of the loan proceeds when the bank forgave the loan.

United States District Judge Josephine L. Staton scheduled Turk’s sentencing hearing for October 7.

The Small Business Administration’s Office of Inspector General, Homeland Security Investigations, IRS Criminal Investigation, and the FBI is investigating this matter.

Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer L. Waier of the Santa Ana Branch Office is prosecuting this case.

Anyone with general information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Justice Department’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

This article was released by the U.S. Department of Justice.