During his 61 years on this planet, Adel Cotton grew up in poor conditions in Guatemala, immigrated to the United States at 38, worked as a milkman, learned how to prepare tax returns at University of Southern California and eventually found himself arrested.
It turns out that agents inside the criminal division of the Internal Revenue Service don't appreciate tax preparers filing refund demands based on wishes and imagination--or, in Cotton's case--wildly fabricated numbers.
In Operation Stolen Treasures, the IRS discovered that he boldly prepared false claims to rob the U.S. Treasury for amounts including $281,146; $406,645; $122,578; and $1,568,044.
Assistant United States Attorney Charles E. Pell called Cotton's criminal activity "very disturbing."
The prosecutor was also alarmed that this defendant engaged in a second con game involving identity theft, according to court records.
Pell told U.S. District Court Judge Josephine L. Staton that Cotton--who was indicted in September 2011 by a federal grand jury--deserved a punishment of 51 months in prison.
Officials inside the U.S. Probation Office pushed for a sentence of 33 months and Cotton's defense attorney argued a punishment of home detention would fairly resolve the case.
This month inside Santa Ana's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse, Staton decided the appropriate sentence is 27 months in prison followed by supervised probation for three years.
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Cotton has until noon on March 10 to surrender to federal prison officials.