Customers: Company, tax returns disappeared

Customers say they never received tax refunds, Cheap Taxes has closed shop

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Gone without a trace — that's how customers are describing their tax returns and the Westside company who filed them.

Channel 4 has been digging deeper into Cheap Taxes on 103rd Street.

Customers say the IRS has issued their refunds, but the money isn't in their accounts, and the company's employees can't be found.

Cheap Taxes used to operate under a different name: LBS Tax Services, which is currently being investigated on fraud charges in Florida and Texas.

The Cheap Taxes office has been cleared out, and the door is locked.

One customer said the business closed up the same day he was told his refund check was supposed to arrive.

"I contacted the IRS, the IRS told me $4,800 was deposited into their account on March 3, and people just up and left the building and nobody has heard from them," said Justin Carter. "Seems to me he's running some kind of scam getting income tax money."

Carter said he had big plans for that money, but those plans were a bust.

"I was calling the guy and calling him, and he kept telling me that my check wasn't there yet, wasn't there yet," Carter said. "Well, one morning he said a check should be there on Monday. I called him on that Monday, and there was no answer."

Carter, a young father, said he left message after message for Cheap Taxes, until the line was disconnected and he found out the company had packed up and left.

The company's departure was due in part to property owner Larry Phillips.

"I felt they were so crooked, I just told them they weren't welcome," Phillips said.

Phillips also runs his business out of the multi-unit building that housed Cheap Taxes. His original leas with Cheap Taxes was listed under LBS Tax Services.

"I thought LBS had changed their name to Cheap Taxes or something, but then after awhile I just realized Cheap Taxes was a quick way to make some money," Phillips said.

Based in Orlando, LBS Tax Services is at the center of fraud investigations in Texas and Florida, accused of overcharging and taking hundreds out of customers' tax refunds. Phillips said he's had more than 30 customers come knocking on his door angry and looking for their money.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office was called in after dozens of boxes filled with sensitive tax information were uncovered inside the deserted office.

"JSO recommended that the best thing we could do was just burn (the documents), because the last thing you want someone to do is to get their information out of the dumpster," Phillips said. "So that's what we did, we burned them."

It's still unclear where the owner is. Channel 4 tried to call the owner of LBS Tax Services, but the phone was disconnected.

As for Carter, he's reported the problem to the IRS, but he isn't sure if he'll ever get his money back.

"I want to see something happen," Carter said. "Get in touch with him or something, or at least give people their money back that he owes."

The Better Business Bureau doesn't have any record of Cheap Taxes operating in Jacksonville, but LBS Tax Services has an "F" rating with the BBB because of the number of complaints against the company.