Lea’Tice Phillips, of Montgomery County, Ala., pleaded guilty today to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft for her role in a stolen identity refund fraud scheme, the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced today.
According to the court documents, Phillips worked for an Alabama state agency and had access to state databases which contained means 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 means of identification and used her state email to send means of identification to Djonret. Djonret and others used those means of identification to file false tax returns mostly from Djonret’s residence in Montgomery, Ala. Djonret and her co-conspirators used an elaborate network of individuals to launder the tax refunds. They recruited individuals to purchase prepaid debit cards and to provide the cards to them. 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.
The sentencing of Phillips has not yet been scheduled. Phillips faces between two and 22 years in prison, three years of supervised release, restitution, and a maximum fine of $750,000, or twice the loss caused by the offense. Djonret was previously sentenced to 144 months in prison.
The case was investigated by the IRS - Criminal Investigation. Trial Attorneys Jason H. Poole and Michael Boteler of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama Todd Brown are prosecuting the case.
Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found at www.justice.gov/tax.