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Ceres mortgage broker charged with tax cheating
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Maria Eusebia Vega, 51, of Ceres, was arraigned Thursday in federal court after an Aug. 2 grand jury indictment charging her with three counts of filing false tax returns.

U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner said the indictment alleges that Vega, a real estate agent and a licensed mortgage broker who owned and operated Vega's Financial Services, filed false joint individual federal income tax returns for her and her husband in April 2008 for tax years 2005, 2006, and 2007.

Vega earned income from title companies and other real estate companies for work as a loan officer on mortgage transactions and as a real estate agent from 2005 through 2007. She is charged with substantially underreporting both the income and the tax due for those years. Vega claimed a tax refund of $5,000 for 2005 and a tax refund of $11,298 for 2006. She claimed to owe only $766 in taxes for 2007, but authorities say she owed the government over $260,000 for the three years.

Vega was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation bureau. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kirk E. Sherriff is prosecuting the case.

At her arraignment, Vega entered a plea of not guilty and was released on a $30,000 bond. A status conference is set for Sept. 17 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheila K. Oberto.

If convicted, Vega faces a maximum statutory penalty of three years in prison and a $100,000 fine.