St. Paul Businesswoman Gets Over One Year in Prison for Cheating IRS out of $1 Million

The owner of a former St. Paul employment service was sentenced to 15 months in jail on Thursday for stealing $1.02 million in tax money by paying employees in cash.

Shoua Isabelle Yang, 45, was charged in April 2021 with submitting fake tax returns while running AtWork Staffing on Rice Street from 2015 to 2018. She allegedly neglected to withhold and pay income and payroll taxes for the persons she hired to work for her clients, according to the grand jury.

Yang pled guilty to two charges of filing false income tax returns in November as part of a plea deal with prosecutors.

Yang’s actions were “serious by any measure,” according to U.S. Assistant Attorney Matthew Ebert, who delivered the sentence on Thursday. Tax evasion is frequent and difficult to prosecute, he added, and a prison term might dissuade “any future would-be tax fraudsters.”

However, Ebert requested a reduction in the sentence from the federal guidelines, which called for double the time in jail. Yang swiftly admitted to her offenses, according to him, and has supplied “knowledge regarding a variety of other items that may be of interest to police authorities.”

Yang has had a terrible life, according to Ebert, and has not gotten rich from her misdeeds.

The prosecution stated, “She was a single mother trying to keep her family and financial affairs afloat.”

Yang was a youngster when her mother died in a refugee camp in Southeast Asia. Before going into many violent relationships, she married at 15, had her first kid at 16, and lost her spouse to a stray bullet outside a St. Paul pub in 2004.

Through a love companion, she became acquainted with AtWork Staffing. When that connection ended, she took over the company but committed to a “unfair financial deal,” according to court-appointed defense counsel Tom Kelly, in which she handed out $729,000 in cash and $100,000 in real estate over four years while generating little money herself.

“She was stuck between paying her staff in cash and paying off the amount she owed to her former partner,” Kelly explained. “They would go somewhere else if she didn’t pay them in cash; this is common knowledge in the (staffing) market.”

Kelly asked for a 12-month home monitoring sentence so Yang could continue to raise her 3-year-old daughter while working in cosmetology for her adult daughter, but U.S. District Judge Eric Tostrud disagreed.

Yang’s emotional and financial hardships were noted by Tostrud as he handed down the 15-month jail term, which also includes a $1.02 million restitution payment to the IRS with monthly installments of at least $250.

“You’ve had a difficult life, and you’ve managed to survive in many respects,” Tostrud added.

Yang was convicted of narcotics possession in 2019 and served a month in prison for it, according to the judge.

According to a probable cause document filed in state court, the IRS was executing a search warrant at Yang’s house in 2018 when agents discovered 114 pounds of marijuana, three weapons, and $26,000 in cash. Yang’s phone and bank account showed she was involved in marijuana cultivation on the West Coast and shipping it to Minnesota for sale.

Yang told the judge on Thursday that she would never return to court as a criminal defendant.

“I am sorry for breaking the law.” “I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience I caused,” she stated. “I am grateful that this country gives people who deserve it a second opportunity.”

After his punishment, Yang was permitted to return home. She must report to prison next month to begin serving her sentence.

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