Top Five Identity Theft Prosecutions
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#5 Two Sentenced for Participating in Identity Theft Scam . In Los Angeles, California, Michael Williams, of Palmdale, was sentenced to 33 months in prison and ordered to pay $787,086 in restitution. Mike Niko, of Los Angeles, was sentenced to 15 months in prison and ordered to pay $104,662 in restitution. According to court documents, from May 2008 through July 2010, Williams and Niko conspired with others to defraud the United States by using the personal identifying information of various individuals to file false tax returns claiming fraudulent tax refunds. A co-conspirator stole names and social security numbers from the California Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) computer system. The fraudulent returns claimed the First Time Home Buyer Credit and/or Earned Income Credit. Purporting to be tax preparers, Williams and Niko established bank accounts for the purpose of receiving the refunds claimed on the false tax returns.
#4 Alabama State Employee Sentenced for Providing Names in Identity Theft Scheme. In Montgomery Ala., Lea’Tice Phillips was sentenced to 94 months in prison and ordered to pay $567,631 in restitution. Phillips pleaded guilty on May 30, 2013 to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. According to the court documents, Phillips worked for an Alabama state agency and had access to state databases that contained forms of identification of individuals. Between October 2009 and April 2012, Phillips conspired with Antoinette Djonret and others to file false tax returns using stolen identities. On multiple occasions, Phillips accessed a state database to obtain identification which she then sent to Djonret. Djonret and others used the stolen identification to file false tax returns, mostly from Djonret’s residence in Montgomery. Djonret and her co-conspirators used an elaborate network of individuals to launder the tax refunds. They recruited individuals to purchase prepaid debit cards on their behalf. Fraudulently obtained tax refunds were directed to the prepaid debit cards that Djonret and her co-conspirators used to obtain the proceeds. Some of the prepaid debit cards were in the name of Phillips. In total, Djonret filed over 1,000 false tax returns that claimed over $1.7 million in fraudulent tax refunds. Antoinette Djonret was sentenced to serve 144 months in prison for her role in the conspiracy.
#3 Florida Resident Sentenced for Aggravated Identity Theft . In Orlando, Fla., Abdul Cunningham, of Rockledge, Fla., was sentenced to 144 months in prison, ordered to pay $560,731 in restitution and a money judgment of $560,731. Cunningham pleaded guilty on June 13, 2013 to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. A co-defendant, Jana Harris-Cunningham, pleaded guilty on June 24, 2013 and is awaiting sentencing. According to court documents, the defendants engaged in a scheme to defraud the United States Treasury by filing fraudulent income tax returns and negotiating fraudulent tax refunds using stolen identities. Cunningham and Harris-Cunningham filed 145 false claims with the IRS for tax years 2010 and 2011. As part of their scheme, both used the stolen identities along with false and fraudulent wage and tax withholding information to prepare fraudulent federal income tax returns. After filing the false returns, Cunningham and Harris-Cunningham accepted and negotiated reloadable debit cards that they knew contained fraudulently obtained income tax refunds.
#2 Ohio Woman Sentenced in Identity Theft and Tax Refund Scam . In Cincinnati, Ohio, Bridgette Jones (no diary found) was sentenced to 61 months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $477,490 in restitution to the IRS. In April 2013, Jones pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to submit false claims for federal income tax refunds with the IRS and to one count of aggravated identity theft. According to court documents, between January 2011 and September 2012, Jones conspired with others to obtain false claims for income tax refunds from the IRS by electronically filing false 2010 and 2011 federal income tax returns claiming at least $654,550 in refunds that they knew they were not entitled. Jones’ primary role in the scheme was to prepare and submit false returns to the IRS using stolen identities. Co-conspirator Ellis Maurice Scott unlawfully obtained the individual names, dates of birth, and social security numbers used to prepare and file the false income tax returns. Jones and Scott kept lists of these individual’s identities to be used in filing false income tax returns for multiple income tax years. In April 2013, Ellis Scott pleaded guilty and currently awaits sentencing.
#1 (tie) Californian Sentenced for Role in Fraudulent Refund Scheme . In Los Angeles, California, Kashawn Monique Savery was sentenced to 18 months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $1,608,021 in restitution to the IRS. Savery pleaded guilty to ten counts of filing false claims against the United States. According to court documents, Savery conspired with others to file with the IRS false claims for refunds based upon fraudulent Earned Income Tax Credits and First Time Homebuyers Tax Credits. A co-conspirator provided personal identifying information of individuals, including names and Social Security numbers, from the computer system of the California Department of Public Services where the co-conspirator was employed. Savery would use the stolen personal identifying information to file false returns. The fraudulently obtained refunds would be deposited into bank accounts controlled by others in the scheme.
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