Identity Theft and Tax Fraud Ring Members Admit Guilt
ATLANTA - Shawn Brown, Christopher Edwards, Kelly Sue Lonas and Nyron Nelson pleaded guilty in federal district court for their roles in an identity theft and fraudulent tax return ring that sought millions of dollars in fraudulent refunds.
“Those who file false tax refund claims using stolen identities threaten the integrity of our federal income tax system and pose a real danger to the financial security of the individuals whose identities are stolen,” said U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “Citizens of this district should know we are dedicated to prosecuting thieves like these and to deterring similar crimes.”
“IRS Criminal Investigation has made investigating refund fraud and identity theft a top priority,” stated Veronica Hyman-Pillot SAC, Atlanta Field Office. “These individuals demonstrated a blatant disregard of the integrity of the United States tax system and caused undue hardship to innocent victims. IRS Criminal Investigation, together with our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office remain committed to holding those who engage in similar conduct accountable.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: From approximately January 2010 to March 2013, Brown led a criminal organization that engaged in a scheme to defraud the Department of the Treasury by filing fraudulent income tax returns and negotiating fraudulent tax refunds using stolen identities. This is commonly called stolen identity refund fraud. Brown had ties to criminal organizations in Chicago and Atlanta that engaged in this type of fraud. The defendants used the stolen identities along with fake wage and withholding information to prepare over one thousand fraudulent tax returns which claimed over $5 million dollars in refunds. The defendants also established shell corporations and bank accounts to facilitate the fraud.
On May 28, 2013, Kelly Sue Lonas and Nyron Nelson pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud. On May 29, 2013, Shawn Brown pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. On May 30, 2013, Christopher Edwards pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft. As part of their plea agreements, the defendants have agreed to forfeit their interest in a luxury vehicle and jewelry purchased using illegal proceeds.
The defendants, Shawn Brown, of Atlanta, Ga.; Christopher Edwards, of Eutaw, Ala.; Kelly Sue Lonas and Nyron Nelson, both of Marietta, Ga.; were indicted in November 2012, along with other co-defendants on one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud and multiple counts of aggravated identity theft. The wire fraud count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and the aggravated identity theft charge carries a mandatory two-year consecutive sentence to any other sentence imposed. Each count also carries a fine of up to $250,000. In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.
Sentencing hearings will be scheduled in September 2013 before United States District Judge Amy Totenberg.
This case is being investigated by Special Agents of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation and Task Force Officers with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Alpharetta Police Department.
Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey A. Brown is prosecuting the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.