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| Crime |

Instant Repay? Miami Tax Prep Owner Caught on Video Swiping Rival's Sign

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Around 7 p.m. on New Year's Day, as the rest of Miami was nursing its first hangover of the year, a man in a green T-shirt and khaki shorts climbed to the second story of a Kendall office building and began sawing off the zip ties holding a "Coming Soon" sign.

Just a few months ahead of peak season, the Tax Team was preparing to open its seventh office the following day. But when franchise owner Kristine Eckhardt showed up to work January 2, the sign was gone. Eckhardt booted up the surveillance system and sent the footage to company CEO Aileen Guillen, who recognized the culprit immediately.

"When they sent over the video, I was like, 'Oh, my God, that's Joe!'" Guillen tells New Times.

It turns out the caper appears to have been a family affair.

For four years, Guillen had worked for her cousin, Giraldo "Jerry" Sanchez, and her step-cousin, Jose "Joe" Sanchez, at their Miami tax preparation firm, Tax Pros. But Guillen says bad blood developed between her and the Sanchez brothers when she started her own company in 2014. So when she saw the heist video, it made sense to her that Joe Sanchez was front and center.

"He couldn't send somebody to do his dirty work for him. He had to do it himself," Guillen says.

On January 14, detectives from the Miami-Dade Police Department brought Sanchez in for an interview. Police say he confessed to the crime, leading them to charge the 57-year-old with misdemeanor petty theft.

Sanchez did not respond to an email or phone message from New Times.

The beef between Tax Pros and the Tax Team has been well documented in court records. In August 2014, just a few months after the Tax Team opened for business, Tax Pros sued the new company for allegedly stealing trade secrets. Tax Pros claimed Guillen and other former Tax Pros employees had taken the Tax Pros' client list and violated a noncompete agreement by opening the Tax Team. (Guillen and the Tax Team defendants denied both charges.) The parties ultimately settled in April 2018.

In the recent case, Joe Sanchez was released from jail on a $500 bond. An arraignment hearing has been scheduled for February 11.

Guillen says she hasn't spoken to her step-cousin since his arrest.

"It's like an episode of Caso Cerrado," she says.

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