Montgomery Woman is Sentenced to 65 Months for Stealing Identities for Tax Refunds
Montgomery, Alabama - Angeline Austin, 41, of Montgomery, Alabama, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson to 65 months in federal prison for one count of conspiring to defraud the Government regarding claims, one count of fraud in connection with identification documents, a count of fraud in connection with computers, and of aggravated identity theft, announced George L. Beck, Jr., United States Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama.
Between June 13, 2010 and March 25, 2011, Austin worked for Southern Records Management, Inc., a company that contracts with other companies to manage their business data. As an employee for Southern Records Management, Austin worked at the Troy Regional Medical Center records office. While working at Troy Hospital, Austin stole over 800 names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and other personal information from current and former patients of the Troy Hospital. Austin then sold that information to another person for between $6500 and $8000. These stolen identities were then used to file fraudulent tax returns. The IRS, believing the tax refunds were legitimate, deposited the tax refunds from those fraudulent tax returns on pre-paid debit cards, and sent them to people working with Austin. Those people then cashed out the debit cards at various ATM machines.
At the sentencing hearing, one of the victims, whose identity Austin stole, testified that he used to work at a defense contracting company making over $100,000 a year. His job at the defense contracting company required him to maintain a top secret security clearance. As a result of Austin stealing his identity, his credit was severely impacted and his security clearance was suspended. Because his security clearance was suspended, he was fired from his job. He now works at a fast food restaurant making minimum wage. Further, a member of the Air National Guard, his military duties have been scaled back because of the suspended security clearance. The lack of income has severely affected the his family; for example, his wife had to quit nursing school; his daughter, who sings in her school choir, couldn’t go on several choir trips where the family had to pay for the trips; and, his son had to decrease his trips with his sport’s teams.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Troy Regional Medical Center also testified at Austin’s sentencing hearing. She told the Court that Austin had access to all of Troy Medical Center’s patients’ information because Austin’s job was to provide patients, and other authorized individuals, copies of their medical records. Although Austin was employed by the hospital as a contractor, Troy Medical Center trained her, as they did all hospital employees, about Federal and States laws requiring the protection of patients’ privacy and personal information. The CEO further explained to Judge Thompson that Troy Medical Center has been operating at a loss for years and that the hospital was very concerned that it may be fined over $1.5 million dollars for violations of Federal and State of Alabama health care privacy laws stemming from Austin stealing the patients’ identities. This fine could severely impact the capability to operate the only hospital in Troy.
“These identity thieves are becoming more bold,” said U.S. Attorney Beck. “However, my office is unrelenting, and we will not let up on these criminals. We cannot, and will not, allow these criminals to continue to prey on our citizens.”
"Identity thieves come in all forms, a complete stranger or a neighbor down the street,” stated IRS Criminal Investigation, Special Agent in Charge, Veronica Hyman-Pillot. “Whatever their background, IRS Criminal Investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office are dedicated to identifying, investigating and vigorously prosecuting those individuals who choose to victimize and steal from honest individuals.”
“Identity theft is an ongoing problem in the United States and the Montgomery, Alabama area, unfortunately, is in the top ten of cities where the stolen identities are being used to file fraudulent tax returns,” stated Resident Agent in Charge Clayton Slay, U.S. Secret Service in Montgomery, Alabama. Slay continued by saying, “Austin’s sentencing is the most recent in this case which involved numerous defendants who stole identities from, not only Troy Hospital, but local Montgomery high schools and other hospitals in Montgomery, Alabama, and the Atlanta, Georgia, areas through collusive employees, security guards, and U.S. Postal delivery personnel and resulted in approximately $1.6 million dollars in loss to legitimate tax payers. With the 2013 tax filing season approaching, the U.S. Secret Service, along with the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigative division will remain proactive in the investigation of individuals and groups associated with these types of crimes, especially individuals like Austin who abuse positions of trust to commit crimes and ruin the lives of innocent citizens.”
The United States Attorney thanked the United States Secret Service and the Internal Revenue Service, the agencies that investigated the case, and, Todd A. Brown, the Assistant United States Attorney who represented the United States at the sentencing of Austin.
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