News and Press Releases

Inmate Indicted For Tax Refund Scam: Claims $179,349 In 84 Fraudulent Returns

July 18, 2012

PENSACOLA, FLORIDA – Michael William Joseph, III, 53, an inmate at the Apalachee Correctional Institution in Sneads, Florida, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Tallahassee for his participation in a fraudulent income tax refund scheme involving prisoners.  The indictment was announced today by Pamela C. Marsh, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida.  Count One charges Joseph with conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to claims.  Counts Two through Twenty-eight charge Joseph with submitting false claims against the government.  Count Twenty-nine charges Joseph with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and Counts Thirty through Forty-six charge him with theft from the government.    

            The indictment alleges that, beginning around January 2008, Joseph and others devised a scheme to file fraudulent tax returns using the names and social security numbers of inmates housed in the Florida Department of Corrections.  As part of this scheme, the home address of Joseph’s mother and others were listed on the tax returns, so IRS refund checks would be mailed to them.  As part of the scheme, businesses were listed as the purported employers of the fraudulent claimants, and the conspirators listed fraudulent wages and withholding amounts for time periods in which the inmates were incarcerated.  The indictment alleges that, during the course of the scheme, the defendant and others filed and caused to be filed approximately eighty-four false and fraudulent federal income tax returns, which falsely claimed approximately $179,349 in false, fictitious, and fraudulent refunds from the United States.  A copy of the indictment is attached.   

            If convicted, Joseph faces the following maximum prison sentences: ten years in prison for Count One; five years in prison on each count for Counts Two through Twenty-eight; twenty years in prison for Count Twenty-nine, and ten years in prison on each violation alleged in Counts Thirty through Forty-six. Joseph will make his first court appearance on the indictment and be arraigned before United States Magistrate Judge Larry Bodiford at 1:30PM this afternoon at the United States District Courthouse in Panama City.

This prosecution comes as a result of the collaborative investigative efforts of IRS Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the State Attorney’s Office for the 14th Judicial Circuit of Florida, and the Florida Department of Corrections. The case will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tiffany H. Eggers.

An indictment is merely an allegation by a grand jury that a defendant has committed a violation of federal criminal law and is not evidence of guilt.  A defendant is presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.



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