Four Sentenced For Fraudulent Prisoner Income Tax Refund Scheme
PENSACOLA, FLORIDA – Four Floridians were sentenced this morning for their involvement in a fraudulent prisoner income tax refund scheme. The sentencings of Mary Hobbs Blair, (62) of Cantonment, Carter Hassman, (49) currently in the Santa Rosa County Jail, Nikki Kight (44) of Cantonment, and Michael “Elton” Blair (43) of Gulf Breeze were announced today by Pamela C. Marsh, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida.
For his plea of guilty as to Count One of the indictment, which charged all defendants with conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to false claims, Hassman was sentenced to the statutory maximum of 10 years in prison by Senior United States District Judge Lacey Collier. Judge Collier also ordered Hassman to pay restitution to the government in the amount of $962,853. In recognition of her substantial assistance to the government, which Judge Collier found to be timely, significant and useful, Mary Hobbs Blair was sentenced to serve 52 months in prison and pay restitution to the government in the amount of $962,853. Mary Blair pled guilty to all 37 counts of the indictment on February 22, 2012. For their guilty pleas to Count One of the indictment, Kight and Elton Blair were each placed on probation for 60 months by the Court. Judge Collier ordered Elton Blair to pay $85,691 and Kight to pay $55,231 in restitution to the government.
The sentencing date for a fifth defendant, Thomas Rabeau, (62) of Brandon, was continued until May 25, 2012 at 10:30AM. Rabeau pled guilty to Count One of the indictment on February 27, 2012.
The grand jury’s indictment charged that beginning around January 2007, the five defendants and others filed fraudulent tax returns using the names and social security numbers of inmates housed in the Florida Department of Corrections, and on occasion other individuals who were not incarcerated. As part of this scheme, Mary Blair, Thomas Rabeau, Nikki Kight and Elton Blair’s home addresses were listed on the tax returns, so IRS refund checks would be mailed to them. False and nonexistent businesses were listed as the purported employers, listing fraudulent wages and withholding amounts for time periods in which the inmates were incarcerated. During the course of the scheme, the defendants and others filed and caused to be filed approximately two hundred and twenty-three false federal income tax returns, which claimed approximately $954,795 in fraudulent refunds from the United States.
United States Attorney Marsh praised the work of IRS Criminal Investigation, which investigated the case. Ms. Marsh stated “The investigation and prosecution of tax fraud are priorities of this office. Fraudulent income tax refunds have become a serious problem in the Northern District of Florida in the past several years. We will continue to work diligently to identify and prosecute those individuals who participate in a scheme to defraud the United States by means of fraudulent tax refund claims”.
Ismael J. Nevarez, Jr., Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Tampa Field Office of IRS Criminal Investigation, praised the work of the investigating agencies and the U.S. Attorney’s Office stating “it is through the cooperative effort of all law enforcement agencies that we are successful in battling Identity Theft and the crimes, such as tax refund fraud, that use it. The sentences today send a clear message that tax crimes are taken seriously by the IRS and the court system. We will continue to aggressively pursue these types of investigations in cooperation with our law enforcement counterparts and are thankful for the assistance we receive in furtherance this goal.”
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tiffany H. Eggers.