Unemployed Middle River Woman Sentenced To Prison In $546,785 Fraudulent Tax Refund Scheme
Recruited Individuals Who Did Not Owe Taxes Because They Had Little Or No Earned Income
Baltimore, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett sentenced Tonia Patrice Lawson, age 43, of Middle River, Maryland, today to 10 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for her role in a conspiracy to obtain fraudulent tax refunds. Judge Bennett also ordered Lawson to pay restitution of $546,785.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein, Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Kelly of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Kathryn Jones, U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, Washington Regional Office.
“Criminal conspiracies involving fraudulent refund identity theft schemes damage the integrity of the U.S. financial system and can seriously impact the lives of those victimized. We as taxpayers ultimately pay the price for the greed of these unscrupulous criminals,” said Thomas J. Kelly, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Washington D.C. Field Office. “IRS-CI, along with our law enforcement partners and the Maryland United States Attorney's Office, will continue to utilize every tool available to investigate those who conspire to victimize members of our community for their own personal gain.”
According to Lawson’s plea agreement, from February 2010 through April 2013, Lawson, who was unemployed, conspired with her daughters Kiara Skipwith and Jasmine Thomas and with Sheila Anderson-Cloude, to prepare fraudulent tax returns. The defendants recruited individuals who did not owe taxes because they had little or no earned income, and convinced these individuals that they could obtain a substantial refund and therefore should file a federal individual income tax return. Generally, Lawson, Skipwith and Thomas recruited prospects for the scheme, using a variety of methods, including paying referral fees to those who brought recruits to them.
Lawson, Skipwith and Thomas provided the recruits’ personal information to Anderson-Cloude, who would prepare the fraudulent return. The recruits did not provide any income information. False wages and educational expenses were used to falsely claim tax credits. Lawson, Anderson-Cloude, Skipwith, and Thomas misled the recruits by telling them that the refunds they had received were smaller than the refund amounts Anderson-Cloude had actually listed on the fraudulent returns. The “profit” for Lawson and her co-conspirators was the difference between the refund claimed on each tax return and the smaller amount actually paid to the recruit.
Over the course of the scheme, Lawson conspired in the filing of 84 fraudulent tax returns with a resulting loss to the government of $546,785.
Sheila Anderson-Cloude, age 34, of Notthingham, Maryland, Jasmine L. Thomas, age 26, of Baltimore; and Kiara A. Skipwith, age 24, of Parkville, Maryland, previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme. Thomas and Skipwith were each sentenced to three years’ probation and ordered to pay restitution of $90,579 and $199,722, respectively. Anderson-Cloude is scheduled to be sentenced on July 29, 2014.
Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised IRS Criminal Investigation and DOT-OIG for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorney Gregory R. Bockin, who prosecuted the case.