Rocky Mount, N.C. — A Rocky Mount man who urged local children to stay out of trouble is facing a maximum of 13 years in prison and $500,000 in fines after pleading guilty Monday to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and filing false tax returns.
Larry Hill Jr. will be sentenced on Nov. 4. He made a name for himself in Rocky Mount after appearing in commercials and YouTube videos, asking children to live a crime-free lifestyle.
“I want all my young people to think before you act. Trouble is too easy to get into, and once you get into trouble, you’ll be all by yourself,” Hill says in one YouTube clip posted last November.
In another clip, Hill handed out cash to children as part of his “Crime Free Summer Good Deeds Contest” as the words “Stop the violence” flashed on the screen. Despite his attempts to dissuade children from trouble, federal authorities say it’s a message Hill didn't lived by.
"As a local businessman, Larry Hill has held himself out to the public as the 'people’s champ.' His guilty plea today to a sweeping tax fraud conspiracy shows us that he was very much the opposite,” U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker said in a statement Monday.
From February 2010 to October 2012, Hill’s tax business filed hundreds of “false, fictitious and fraudulent refunds” for customers, claiming millions in refunds, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Federal court records filed in April show authorities charged Hill with fraud and conspiracy in connection with his business, Hill’s Tax Service.
Beginning in 2010, investigators said, the Rocky Mount business filed more than 300 tax returns for clients, claiming in excess of $1.5 million in refunds. Within a few years, the business expanded to four other locations – in Wilson, Scotland Neck, Hollister and Farmville – and so did the fraud, according to the criminal complaint.
From $1.5 million in refunds in 2010, to $5.4 million in 2011, to $7.5 million in 2012, prosecutors say most of the returns, including Hill’s own, were fraudulent. Prosecutors allege Hill’s tax preparers manipulated the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income filers by falsely reporting interest income, withholdings and dependents and that Hill profited from each bogus return.
According to the criminal complaint, Hill collected an average of $1,000 for himself from each fraudulent refund check. He reported an income of $8,750 on his taxes for 2010. Authorities say it was more than that, but they did not provide an exact amount. All five of his tax preparation offices have shut down.
The WRAL Investigates team caught up with Hill in June at a used car sales business, where he is known as “the head honcho.” He declined to comment or refer to an attorney for comment, but he later emailed WRAL on June 28 to say that he shares "some of the blame" for his legal troubles.
"He without sin cast the first stone," he wrote.
Hill served time for a 2007 fraud conviction for an insurance scam related to staged automobile accidents. He still owes more than $70,000 in restitution in that case.