A Kansas City man who owned a karate business in Blue Springs is at the center of what investigators are calling the largest false tax claims case ever prosecuted in Missouri.

A Kansas City man who owned a karate business in Blue Springs is at the center of what investigators are calling the largest false tax claims case ever prosecuted in Missouri.

U.S. Attorney Beth Phillips announced Thursday through her office that 16 defendants – five from the Kansas City area – were charged in the tax fraud scheme, which spanned from July 1, 2008 to Sept. 21, 2011.

Phillips called Kansas City the center of the operation, one that reached as far east as Georgia and as far west as California.

“Kansas City was the hub of a nationwide conspiracy that attempted to receive nearly $100 million in fraudulent tax refunds,” Phillips said in a press release.

Gerald A. Poynter II, 46, reportedly maintained an office and karate studio at 1052 S.W. Luttrell Road in Blue Springs.

Described as the leader of the conspiracy, Poynter, who also was known as “Brother Jerry Love,” recruited numerous “branch managers” who, together, recruited about 145 clients across the United States.

Poynter also maintained a website called “Luckytown,” to promote the scheme, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors allege that the group prepared and filed at least 284 returns under the scheme, and while 89 percent of the fraudulent claims were detected by the IRS and denied, nearly 11 percent of the refunds were paid out, according to the indictment.

Defendants received more than $3.5 million of the total $96 million in attempted fraudulent refunds, according to the indictment. In some cases, individuals received hundreds of thousands of dollars in refunds.

Poynter himself filed more than 80 returns for his direct clients, claiming about $25 million in refunds, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors claim Poynter enticed clients into the scheme by promising them they could “recoup” their debts by allowing the defendants to prepare their tax returns, performing the service through business names, including Sharper Solutions, Surety Analysis, Jerry Love Ministries, Luckytown, Black Belt Tax and The Dojo, among others.

Gathering client debt information, the defendants prepared tax returns showing that they were owed enormous refunds from taxes withheld from interest income, the charges allege.

The returns then were filed as if the clients themselves had prepared them, while the defendants, separately, filed false documentation backing up the false claims.

Once refunds were received, the “branch managers” kept some of the money and were encouraged to share the rest with the Jerry Love Ministries as a “love donation,” according to the indictment.

During a “branch manager” training session in Atlanta in December 2008, Poynter is alleged to have told others, “I do things based off practicality, not so much off the laws and all …” and, “I’ve made (1099-Original Issue Discounts) payable to Spiderman, Superman. You can make it to SpongeBob. You can make it to anybody you want for however much you want …”

Joshua Michael Simonson, 33, and his wife, Kristen Loree Simonson, 34, of Oak Grove, also were charged in a second indictment. The couple received a total of $810,218 in refunds by using the same scheme.

Others charged in the 72-count indictment include: Shirley J. Oyer, 70, of Overland Park, Kan.; Kristi L. Jones, 38, of Riverside, Mo; Earl Lee Davis, 52, of Monroe, La.; Nkosi Gray, 38, of New Fairfield, Conn.; Billy Ray Hall, 72, of Newton, Ala.; Kimberly Johnson, 41, of Chickamauga, Ga.; Darryl E. Larkins, 49, of Chicago; Robert E. Morris, 65, of Rocklin, Calif.; Mark J. Murray, 49, of Newton, Ala.; Jeffrey and Karen Olson, both 40, of Wood Dale, Ill.; John V. Perdido, 55, of Temecula, Calif.; and Jennifer S. Wilson, 34, of Cumming, Ga.

Oyer was a promoter and branch manager, working on tax returns at an office at Poynter’s karate studio. She recruited at least 12 clients, according to the indictment, preparing and filing 26 fraudulent returns and claiming $12.4 million in refunds, of which the IRS paid out $92,974.