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Slayton woman charged with felony tax fraud

SLAYTON -- Charges were filed last week against a Slayton woman who is accused of knowingly filing fraudulent or false tax returns over the course of several years.

Merrilee Stang, 41, is facing 11 felony counts of filing a fraudulent tax return, based on reports filed through Murray County District Court by a revenue special investigator with the Criminal Investigation Division of the Minnesota Department of Revenue. According to the investigator's reports and the criminal complaint, Stang allegedly admitted to preparing tax returns for herself and her husband, and therefore, to being responsible for the information contained in the returns.

The alleged misstatements of income and/or expenses resulted in an underpayment to the Minnesota Department of Revenue in the amount of $54,674. Part of that amount is due to interest and penalties, according to exhibits filed with the complaint. The accusation of fraudulent filings is in regard to statements filed for the years 2003 through 2008.

Stang, who worked for the Slayton Chamber of Commerce in 2003 and 2004, allegedly overstated withholdings multiple times over a six-year period, along with overstating mortgage interest. She allegedly failed to report U.S. Treasury interest, as well as pension distributions, on her husband's taxes. On her own filings, she allegedly overstated mortgage interests and withholdings, failed to report income, failed to report unemployment and claimed student loan interest.

The charges were filed under a Minnesota statute that states, "A person who files with the commissioner a return, report or other document, known by the person to be fraudulent or false concerning a material matter, is guilty of a felony."

The 11 individual charges state the result of the alleged fraud resulted in a reduced tax liability or an increased tax refund, punishable by not more than five years in prison and/or a fine of not more than $10,000.

A spokesperson with the Minnesota Department of Revenue stated her office is unable to comment on how the department is aware of whether the fraudulent filings were knowingly committed or done in error.

Stang's first court appearance is scheduled for March 22 at the Murray County Courthouse.