Five Individuals Indicted For Tax Fraud
PANAMA CITY, FLORIDA – Two federal grand jury indictments were unsealed today charging five individuals with using the personal identifying information of other individuals to file fraudulent tax returns. The indictments were announced by Pamela C. Marsh, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida.
The first indictment charges two individuals: Versiah M. Taylor, 32, of Panama City, and Tracy L. Collier, 47, an inmate at the Florida Department of Corrections’ Lake Butler Reception & Medical Center. Taylor and Collier are charged in a forty-five count indictment with conspiring to defraud the government with respect to claims, filing false claims against the United States, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
The indictment alleges that Taylor and Collier conspired to file false federal income tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), claiming refunds of more than $503,273.00, knowing that they were not entitled to receive those funds. Collier, while incarcerated at Okaloosa Correctional Institution, obtained the names, dates of birth, and social security numbers of various inmates, often without the individual’s knowledge or authorization. According to the indictment, Collier provided the personal identifying information to Taylor, and Taylor then used the information to file false tax returns claiming fraudulent refunds. The false returns submitted to the IRS in this scheme included fabricated amounts of wages, names of false employers and financial institutions, and false amounts of interest income and Social Security income. As a result of the scheme, Taylor and Collier caused the United States Treasury to pay fraudulent income tax refunds by loading said refunds onto prepaid debit cards purchased in the Bay County area or onto prepaid debit cards mailed by various financial institutions to locations throughout the Bay County area.
The second indictment charges Anthony Q. Atkinson, 31, Anthony L. Smith, Jr., 25, and John Jerome Fagin, 30, all of the greater Panama City area. Atkinson, Smith and Fagin are charged in a ten count indictment with conspiring to defraud the government with respect to claims, filing false claims against the United States, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
The indictment alleges that Atkinson, Smith, and Fagin conspired to file fraudulent federal income tax returns with the IRS, claiming refunds of more than $37,526.00. As part of the scheme, Smith provided personal identifying information to Atkinson, who would then file fraudulent tax returns using the false and stolen information. The indictment alleges that Fagin provided his own personal identifying information, as well as the addresses of other individuals to Smith and Atkinson to facilitate the filing of false tax returns. The false tax claims submitted in this scheme included fabricated amounts of Social Security income, taxable interest income, tax withholdings and names of financial institutions. As a result, Atkinson, Smith and Fagin caused the United States Treasury to pay fraudulent income tax refunds by loading refunds onto prepaid debit cards purchased in the Bay County area or onto prepaid debit cards mailed by financial institutions to locations throughout the Bay County area.
If convicted of the charges contained in these two indictments, the defendants face up to twenty years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, up to three years of supervised release, restitution, criminal forfeiture, and a $100 special monetary assessment on each count of conviction. Additionally, each count of aggravated identity theft carries a potential minimum mandatory sentence of two years in prison, which must be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed.
The indictment results from an investigation conducted by agents of IRS Criminal Investigation and this case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kathryn Risinger as part of a Department of Justice initiative to fight stolen identity refund fraud (SIRF). In September 2012, the Department issued Tax Division Directive 144, which sets forth expedited Department review procedures for SIRF cases, enabling law enforcement to respond quickly and effectively to the grave challenges presented in SIRF cases and to prevent the victimization of innocent taxpayers whose identities are stolen by fraudsters. U.S. Attorney Marsh commended the work of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations whose investigations led to the indictments in these cases.
An indictment is merely a formal charge by a grand jury that a defendant has committed a violation of federal criminal law. All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until the government proves their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a jury at trial.