Natacia Webster was arrested today as part of a federal crackdown on identity theft and tax refund fraud. A federal grand jury in Montgomery, Ala., returned an indictment on Jan. 19, 2012, charging Webster, an employee of the state of Alabama, with several charges arising out of her theft of identity information from government databases, the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced today. The 15-count indictment charges Webster with conspiracy to defraud the government, wire fraud, computer fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
According to the indictment, in 2011, Webster obtained identity information during her employment with the state of Alabama and provided that information to co-conspirator Melinda Clayton, who used the stolen identities to file false tax returns fraudulently claiming tax refunds. The refunds were directed to bank accounts and debit cards controlled by the conspirators. Clayton and several others were indicted in April 2011. Clayton has since pleaded guilty and is currently awaiting sentencing.
“My office will continue to work with the IRS to vigorously prosecute those people who steal an innocent person identity, just to file a false tax return and steal the tax refunds,” said U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama George L. Beck. “These criminals need to be punished for the harm they cause to the person whose identity is stolen and the harm they cause to U.S. taxpayer.”
“The Justice Department is committed to working with the IRS to investigate, prosecute, and punish those who commit identity theft to obtain tax refunds illegally,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General John A. DiCicco of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.
“The IRS is aggressively pursuing those who steal others’ identities in order to file false returns,” said Steven Miller, IRS Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement. “Our cooperative work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Tax Division will help protect taxpayers in Alabama from being victimized by identity theft. The IRS is taking additional steps this tax season to further prevent, detect and resolve identity theft cases as soon as possible.”
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted, Webster faces a potential maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the conspiracy count, 20 years in prison for each wire fraud count, 5 years in prison for each computer fraud count and a mandatory two-year sentence for each aggravated identity theft count. She is also subject to fines and mandatory restitution if convicted.
The case was investigated by special agents of the IRS - Criminal Investigation. Tax Division trial attorneys Jason H. Poole and Michael Boteler and Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Brown are prosecuting the case.
Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found at www.justice.gov/tax.