News

Two More Conspirators Plead Guilty In Fraudulent
Tax Refund Scheme

Claimed False Income and Credits on Fraudulent Tax Returns for Persons Who Had Little or No Income

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 19, 2014

Baltimore, Maryland – Jasmine L. Thomas, age 26, of Baltimore, and Kiara A. Skipwith, age 24, of Parkville, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to a conspiracy to defraud the government arising from the filing of fraudulent tax refunds.

The guilty pleas were 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.

“Criminal conspiracies involving fraudulent refund schemes are loathsome crimes that victimize our nation’s honest taxpayers,” said Thomas J. Kelly, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Washington D.C. Field Office. “Today’s pleas are a reminder that IRS-CI will remain vigilant in our investigation of these schemes and will continue to work with prosecutors to combat this type of criminal conduct.”

According to their plea agreements, from February 2010 through April 2013, Skipwith, Thomas and their mother, Tonia Lawson, 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. The defendants paid a referral fee to those who brought recruits to them.

The defendants provided the recruits’ personal information to another conspirator who would prepare the fraudulent return. The recruits did not provide any income information. False wages, educational expenses and dependents were used to falsely claim tax credits. Once the tax refund was received, the defendants took a portion of the refund and paid the recruit a smaller amount.

Over the course of the scheme, Thomas conspired to file at least 15 fraudulent tax returns with a resulting loss to the government of $90,579; and Skipwith conspired to file at least 37 fraudulent tax returns with a resulting loss of $199,722.

Thomas and Skipwith face 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 Thomas and Skipwith on May 20, 2014 and May 28, 2014, respectively.

Tonia Patrice Lawson, age 43, of Middle River, Maryland, previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to file 84 fraudulent tax refunds with a loss to the government of $546,785. Lawson is scheduled to be sentenced on March 27, 2014 at 4:00 p.m.

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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