A 38-year-old Atlanta man made his first court appearance this week on charges related to a tax fraud scheme. If convicted, he could spend 25 years or more in prison.
The U.S. Department of Justice alleges that the man participated in or headed up a conspiracy that targeted prison inmates. Posing as representatives of an organization that provided benefits to indigent prisoners, the conspirators told thousands of inmates across the country that they needed to complete an “application” to be eligible for the benefits. The application asked for the name, date of birth and social security number of the prisoner.
According to the DOJ, the scheme started in November 2009. Over the following 2 1/2 years, the sham organization collected 13,000 applications.
With the personal information of the prisoners in hand, the conspirators were able to file false federal income tax returns and ostensibly to keep the refunds for themselves. In all, the DOJ says, there were more than 2,000 fraudulent tax returns that claimed refunds totaling more than $12 million.
Prosecutors have charged the Atlanta resident with one count of conspiracy to commit tax fraud and multiple counts each of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and theft of government funds. The fraud charges are the most serious, with jail time of up to 20 years. A conviction of the identity theft charges and any of the other crimes would add at least two years in prison to the sentence for the other charges.
In addition to prison time, a conviction could mean a fine of as much as $250,000. And, if the DOJ has its way, the conspirators will forfeit all funds associated with the fraudulent activities.
There was no mention of a response to all of this from the suspect. Neither he nor his attorney suggested the possibility of a plea bargain or discussed their defense strategy.
Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle, “Atlanta man attempts to defraud IRS of nearly $12 million,” Andrew Harrer, Jan. 2, 2014