Tampa Woman Sentenced To 9 Years For Tax And Mail Fraud
Tampa, FL - U.S. Attorney Robert E. O'Neill announces that U.S. District Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington yesterday sentenced Shawntrece Sims (31, Tampa) to nine years in federal prison for tax fraud and mail fraud. The court also ordered Sims to make mandatory restitution payments to the U.S. Treasury in the amount of $672,887 and to forfeit profits obtained from her scheme to defraud the government.
Sims pleaded guilty to one count of filing a false claim and one count of mail fraud on March 7, 2011. In her plea agreement, Sims admitted that she knowingly engaged in a scheme to defraud the U.S. government whereby she obtained identifying information from individuals, including social security numbers, and used this information to prepare and electronically file dozens of false income tax returns. In many cases, the individuals whose names and social security numbers appeared on these false returns did not know Sims and others were filing income tax returns on their behalf. In other instances, the individuals were deceased.
These fraudulent returns claimed income on a Form 1099-Misc. and most listed the same or similar occupations for the filers, including barber, hair stylist, lawn care, and care taker. These false returns claimed income in amounts ranging from $10,000 to $32,000, and resulted in a refund due and owing because these returns falsely claimed that federal income taxes were withheld from the supposed tax payer. Sims frequently listed her home address as the tax payer's address. Sims generated the false returns using tax preparation software, such as Tax Act or Turbo Tax, and then caused the fraudulent returns to be electronically filed with the Internal Revenue Service. Also in her plea agreement, Sims admitted to filing at least 44 false tax returns for the 2008 tax year. In total, these 44 fraudulent tax returns generated refunds totaling $263,004 that were either mailed to Sims in the form of checks or preloaded debit cards or deposited into her bank accounts.
During the first half of 2011, Sims had agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with the United States. However, she continued filing false tax returns that generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional fraudulently obtained refunds. Sims, who was supposed to be cooperating with the state and federal government to identify and prosecute additional tax fraudsters, filed hundreds of additional fraudulent returns for the 2010 tax year that generated approximately $400,000 in refunds. According to court records, Sims spent these funds on shopping sprees and on a surgical procedure to have her tubal ligation reversed prior to sentencing. As a result of Sims combined conduct for both the 2008 tax year to which she admitted in her plea agreement, and the 2010 tax year conduct identified by law enforcement subsequent to her guilty plea, Sims was responsible for a total loss of $672,887 to the U.S. Treasury.
"IRS Criminal Investigation has made investigating refund fraud and identity theft a top priority," stated Linda J. Osuna, Special Agent in Charge, Tampa Field office. “Refunds are issued to taxpayers who are entitled to them. Our office will continue to aggressively pursue those who prepare false claims for refunds for the purpose of enriching themselves and depleting the U.S. Treasury”
This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Tampa Police Department. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Mandy Riedel.
This case was prosecuted as part of Operation Rainmaker, a coordinated effort among the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida and various federal and local law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Secret Service, IRS, United States Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Tampa Police Department, and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department to combat the filing of false tax returns in the Tampa Bay region.