News and Press Releases

Identity Thief Sentenced for Filing Tax Returns in the Names of the Attorney General and Others

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 12, 2014

ATLANTA – A federal judge sentenced Yafait Tadesse to one year and one day in prison for using the identities of over ten individuals, including the Attorney General of the United States, to file false and fraudulent tax returns.

 “Identity theft affects people from all walks of life, from hardworking taxpayers trying to make ends meet, to senior government officials,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates.  “Identity thieves should be aware that we will continue to aggressively pursue them no matter who their victims happen to be.”

“Identity thieves have figured out that if they can obtain your Social Security Number they can file false tax returns with the IRS,” said Veronica Hyman-Pillot, IRS Special Agent in Charge IRS Criminal Investigation.  “It does not matter your political position, economic status, or social standing, you are susceptible to identity theft. No one is immune.”

FBI Atlanta, Special Agent in Charge J. Britt Johnson said, “This investigation serves as a warning to those who conspire to devise schemes to defraud and steal money from hard-working citizens through embezzlement and identity theft.  Regardless of whom the victims may be, the FBI takes these violations very seriously and will continue to work with our Federal law enforcement partners in investigating violations of income tax refund fraud.”

According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges, and other information presented in court:  From November 2012 through April 2013, Tadesse and co-defendant Eyaso Abebe carried out a scheme to obtain the names and social security numbers of unsuspecting victims from various websites and use this information on false tax returns that claimed fraudulent refunds.  The tax returns falsely claimed that the victims earned similar wage and withholding amounts and worked at Wal-Mart.  The returns all claimed fraudulent refunds that were to be loaded onto pre-paid debit cards.  These pre-paid debit cards listed Tadesse’s apartment complex in Carrollton, Ga., as the mailing address. 

While the IRS stopped several of the false returns from being fully processed, several fraudulent refunds were directed onto prepaid debit cards.  Surveillance videos showed that Tadesse used one of these prepaid cards at stores in Carrollton, Ga. 

One of the tax returns filed by Tadesse and Abebe used the name, social security number, and date of birth of U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.  There is no indication that the Attorney General was specifically targeted as a result of his position.  The defendants obtained their victims’ information from publicly available websites that publicize the names, social security numbers, and other personally identifying information of unsuspecting individuals. 

The other individuals targeted in this scheme were not government officials and were located across the United States.  One of the victims wrote in a letter to the sentencing judge that at the time of the offense, his wife was pregnant with the couple’s seventh child and that the defendant’s actions prevented the couple from getting their legitimate tax refund, causing a financial burden to the family. 

Tadesse, 21, of Dekalb County, Ga., was sentenced by United States District Judge Amy Totenberg to one year and one day in federal prison and three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $4,014 in restitution to the IRS.  The Court also ordered Tadesse to forfeit his interest in computers that were used to carry out this offense.  Tadesse pleaded guilty on November 13, 2013, to theft of government funds.  The co-defendant in this case, Eyaso Abebe, pleaded guilty on October 16, 2013, to theft of government funds and will be sentenced on August 7, 2014. 

This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  If you believe you may be a victim of tax return-related identity theft, please contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490, extension 245 (Mon. - Fri., 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. local time).

Assistant United States Attorneys Thomas J. Krepp and Steven D. Grimberg are 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 Atlanta Division is http://www.justice.gov/usao/gan/.

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