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Citi Tax Refund stores owner pleads guilty to defrauding IRS of $7.2 million

Susan Walsh

The owner of a tax services company with locations in Pittsburgh pleaded guilty in federal court on Thursday to filing false tax returns.

Ephrem Lijalem, who now lives in Carpentersville, Ill., pleaded guilty to two counts of “Aiding or Assisting in the Preparation or Filing of False Federal Income Tax Returns,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

Local Cititax Tax Refund stores helped defraud $7.2 million in illegal tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service by making up businesses and inflating income. A criminal investigation by the IRS found that tax return preparers regularly altered expenses to maximize tax refunds for customers.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 31. Lijalem could face six years in prison, a fine of $500,000, or both.

Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at