A local tax preparer who guaranteed her patrons would receive a refund has been sentenced to 10 months in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $263,000 to the Internal Revenue Service for her role in a fraudulent tax return scheme.

Maletica V. Ferguson, 37, of Geismar, was previously convicted of scheming to defraud the IRS during the 2010 and 2011 tax years by submitting dozens of false tax returns, U.S. Attorney Walt Green said Thursday.

Ferguson fraudulently claimed the taxpayers were entitled to significant tax refunds by misrepresenting the taxpayers’ incomes and falsely claiming various credits, Green said.

Ferguson, who opened The Best Tax Service in Baton Rouge, pleaded guilty earlier this year to filing at least 26 false and fraudulent federal income tax returns that cost the federal government $263,769.

“This sentence should send another clear message that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the IRS are serious about combating tax fraud,” Green said.

“We will continue to aggressively pursue those criminals who seek to defraud the American taxpayer.”

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson also ordered Ferguson to spend an additional eight months in a halfway house after her release from prison.