News and Press Releases



November 26, 2013


Fayetteville, Arkansas - Conner Eldridge, United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, and Christopher A. Henry, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, announced today that Owen Wheeler, 37, of Everton, Arkansas, was sentenced to 100 months in federal prison for filing false claims for tax refunds, stealing federal tax refund money, and aggravated identity theft. Wheeler was also sentenced to three years of supervised release. The Honorable P.K. Holmes III, Chief U.S. District Court Judge for the Western District of Arkansas, also ordered Wheeler to pay $132,411.49 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.

United States Attorney Eldridge commented, “This Defendant fraudulently used the identities of other individuals in order to steal money from the United States Treasury and, ultimately, all taxpayers. Stealing both identities of unsuspecting individuals and tax dollars paid into the Treasury by hard-working people are serious crimes. We will remain focused on prosecuting these crimes on behalf of our state and our country.”

“Investigating refund fraud and identity theft is a priority for IRS Criminal Investigation,” said Christopher A. Henry, Special Agent in Charge. “Stealing identities and filing false tax returns is a serious crime that hurts innocent taxpayers. Today’s sentencing should serve as a strong warning to those who are considering similar conduct. Law enforcement is serious about investigating these crimes and holding those who would defraud the government accountable.”

According to court records, from September, 2011, through May, 2012, Wheeler took advantage of streamlined procedures recently put in place by the Internal Revenue Service to assist taxpayers with obtaining their tax refunds in a more expeditious manner. He used the identities of numerous persons to file fraudulent claims for tax refunds using the "TurboTax" brand of online tax software. He also opened a bank account in the name of an actual person, into which he deposited the U.S. Treasury checks that were issued in response to his fraudulent tax refund claims. Over the entire course of the scheme, Wheeler stole over $132,000 from the U.S. Treasury.

On June 5, 2013, Wheeler pleaded guilty to three counts in a twenty-one count indictment.
This case was investigated by agents from IRS-Criminal Investigations, who were assisted by the Boone County Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Assistant United States Attorney Glen Hines prosecuted the case for the United States.

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