News

Final Conspirator Pleads Guilty In Fraudulent Tax Refund Scheme

Prepared Fraudulent Tax Returns Claiming False Wages and Tax Credits
for Persons Who Had Little or No Income

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 26, 2014

Baltimore, Maryland – Sheila Anderson-Cloude, age 34, of Notthingham, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to a conspiracy to defraud the government arising from the filing of fraudulent tax refunds.

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Kelly of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Kathryn Jones, U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, Washington, D.C. Regional Office.

According to her plea agreement, from February 2010 through April 2013, Anderson-Cloude conspired with Tonia Lawson and her daughters Kiara Skipwith and Jasmine Thomas to prepare fraudulent tax returns. The defendants recruited individuals who did not owe taxes because they had little or no earned income, and convinced these individuals that they could obtain a substantial refund and therefore should file a federal individual income tax return. Generally, Lawson, Skipwith and Thomas recruited prospects for the scheme, using a variety of methods, including paying referral fees to those who brought recruits to them.

Lawson, Skipwith and Thomas provided the recruits’ personal information to Anderson-Cloude, who would prepare the fraudulent return. The recruits did not provide any income information. False wages and educational expenses were used to falsely claim tax credits. Anderson-Cloude, Lawson, Skipwith and Thomas misled the recruits by telling them that the refunds they had received were smaller than the refund amounts Anderson-Cloude had actually listed on the fraudulent returns. The “profit” for Anderson-Cloude and her co-conspirators was the difference between the refund claimed on each tax return and the smaller amount actually paid to the recruit.

For tax years 2009 through 2012, Anderson-Cloude was involved in the preparation of at least 90 fraudulent tax returns based upon the recruits referred by Lawson, Skipwith, Thomas and others. These fraudulent returns generated illicit refunds totaling $546,785. In 2011 alone, Anderson-Cloude received at least $104,961 in profits from her role in the conspiracy.

Anderson-Cloude faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss caused by the offense, whichever is greater. U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett scheduled sentencing for Anderson-Cloude on May 27, 2014, at 3:00 p.m.

Tonia Patrice Lawson, age 43, of Middle River, Maryland; Jasmine L. Thomas, age 26, of Baltimore; and Kiara A. Skipwith, age 24, of Parkville, Maryland, previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme are scheduled to be sentenced on March 27, 2014, May 20, 2014 and May 28, 2014, respectively.

Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised IRS - Criminal Investigation and DOT-OIG for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Gregory R. Bockin and David I. Sharfstein, who are prosecuting the case.

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