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Fraudster Instant Tax Service Turns into Great Tax LLC

Instant Tax Service sign in an American Midwest city. Photo by Blue MauMau
Instant Tax Service sign. Photo by BMM

DAYTON, Ohio – A district judge ruled that the evidence of fraud and deception perpetrated by Instant Tax Services CEO Fesum Ogbazion was so overwhelming that he and his company were permanently barred from the tax-return preparation business. He said his order "is necessary to protect the public and the Treasury."

That was November 6, 2013.

Today, at the height of tax season, Instant Tax Service is operating under a new banner, Great Tax LLC. It advertises, "We like to have fun! That may not be something you hear from every tax company . . . but we're not your typical tax company."

U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black issued his order after a nine-day trial that took place in July 2013. Evidence presented showed CEO Ogbazion and his businesses encouraged franchisees to file false tax returns. It lured low-income customers into its offices by marketing fraudulent loan products. Other wrongdoings were discovered, included forging customer signatures on loan checks and using the proceeds to operate its own businesses.

The U.S. Department of Justice sued the firm and Ogbazion in 2012. In post-trial documents, Instant Tax Services argued that the evidence told a "different story." They alleged the government's proof was drawn from isolated incidents over several years, and contended it had taken corrective action that remedied most of the past problems identified at trial./p>

Judge Black was not impressed with their arguments. "Defendants' repeated attempts at trial and in argument to downplay the gravity of their lawlessness was stunning," the judge said in his decision. "The court concludes that even today defendants have not fully recognized their culpability."

Instant Tax Service had been ranked number one on Entrepreneur magazine's top new franchise list in 2007. The tax preparation company's website also had advertised its high ratings in other franchise publications. In 2009 it was ranked 93rd in Inc. Magazine's Top 500 fastest growing private businesses, showing its three-year growth at 1,658 percent, up from 2008 revenue of $27.2 million.

Those accolades at the bottom of its web page were soon marred by the required posting of the Department of Justice complaint, the lawsuit that was trying to shut its business down permanently: United States of America v. Fesum Ogbazion, ITS Financial, and Tax Tree, issued on October 29, 2012. 

The Department of Justice sued numerous franchisees, who were trained and supported by their wayward franchisor, for fraud. The Justice Department claimed that the owners intentionally prepared and filed fraudulent tax returns with the aim of maximizing both customer refunds and their own preparation fees.


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About Janet Sparks

Janet Sparks's picture

Public Profile

Janet Sparks is the former publisher of the Continental Franchise Review, an industry newsletter that covered the franchise community for over 30 years. She has also been a columnist for a leading franchise magazine for the past 13 years. Today she is an independent journalist who engages in investigative reporting, tackling complex issues that impact the franchise industry.

Janet can be reached at jsparks@bluemaumau.org or at 303-799-7398.