By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Right in the midst of tax-filing season, a Philadelphia couple — one of them an IRS employee — has been charged in an alleged tax-refund scam.

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The federal indictment just unsealed charges 34-year-old Patricia Fountain, who works for the IRS, and 39-year-old Larry Ishmael with defrauding the U.S. government.

Federal prosecutor Joe Khan says Fountain allegedly solicited taxpayers, in 21 separate instances, to file false tax returns claiming the Telephone Excise Tax Refund.

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“She warned before the fact that she would use her status as an IRS employee to ‘red flag’ any taxpayers who failed to pay her $400 fee after receiving a refund check,” Khan explained.

Ishmael was allegedly actively involved, according to Khan.

“In some cases, Ishmael collected the money from some of the taxpayers,” he tells KYW Newsradio. “Ishmael also participated in the filing of his own false return.”

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If convicted, the couple faces both prison time and fines — up to $4.5 million for Fountain, who is also charged with extortion under the Hobbs Act.