Two admit to conspiracy for identity theft and wire fraud in connection with the filing of false income tax returns
Anchorage, Alaska - U.S. Attorney Karen L. Loeffler announced today that Lucille Stansberry, 40, of Anchorage, Alaska, and Joe Murl Douglas, Jr., 54, of Los Angeles, California, entered guilty pleas in federal court on Friday, December 13, 2013, before U.S. District Court Judge Timothy M. Burgess, to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with filing false income tax returns, and aggravated identity theft.
Stansberry and Douglas admitted conspiring with two others to obtain identifying information, such as names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers, which were then used to prepare false IRS Forms W-2 that contained fabricated wage and withholding amounts. The identifying information and falsified documents were taken to tax return preparation services in Anchorage, Eagle River, and Palmer, Alaska, as well as in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, California, to have tax returns prepared and electronically submitted to the IRS.
In order to increase the refunds claimed on the false returns, in some instances, stolen identifying information was used to claim dependent children on the false returns. The returns requested refunds totaling between $1,400 and $8,600. In many cases the defendants applied for refund anticipation loans and had the fraudulently obtained tax refunds loaded onto reloadable stored value cards allowing them instant access to the money even if the IRS later rejected the falsely filed returns.
The fraudulently obtained tax refunds were used to purchase personal items, including a 2002 Mercedes E320 Sedan. Title to the Mercedes will be forfeited to the government and a money judgment of up to $102,313 – representing the total amount of money involved in the offenses alleged in the indictment – may be entered jointly and severally against convicted defendants.
Douglas and Stansberry will be sentenced on March 21, 2014.
Two other defendants were charged as co-conspirators in the case, Demetrick Ruffin, who is a fugitive, and Jameane Bolton-Williams, a/k/a Jameane Williams, who is scheduled for a court appearance on January 6, 2014.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorneys Retta Randall and Stephanie Courter, the defendants face up to 20 years in prison for the wire fraud, and a mandatory two-year consecutive sentence for the aggravated identity theft. The potential maximum fine is $250,000. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed will be based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history of the defendant.
“IRS Criminal Investigation has made investigating refund fraud and identity theft a top priority,” stated Tamera Cantu, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation. “Filing fraudulent tax returns in the names of other individuals may result in significant harm to those individuals whose identities were stolen, as well as a monetary loss against the U.S. Treasury.”
Ms. Loeffler commends the IRS Criminal Investigation Division for the investigation of this case.