Niece of Leader in D.C. Property Tax Refund Fraud Scheme Is Last of Charged Defendants to Plead Guilty
Over $24 Million in Fraudulently Obtained D.C. Government Checks Deposited into Accounts Held by Jayrece Turnbull Within Six Years
Greenbelt, Maryland - Jayrece Turnbull, age 34, of Bowie, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to receipt of stolen property, conspiracy to commit money laundering, tax evasion and mail fraud in connection with a property tax refund scheme in which over $48 million were stolen from the District of Columbia Office of Tax and Revenue, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Jeffrey A. Taylor. As part of her plea agreement, Turnbull agreed to a money judgment in an amount to be determined by the court and, in order to satisfy such money judgment, to forfeit three residences, a Mercedes Benz car, designer handbags, fur hats, shoes, china, three plasma televisions, jewelry and monies held in 26 bank accounts.
“In just fifteen months, agents and prosecutors not only investigated a corrupt scheme that lasted eighteen years and defrauded the District of Columbia of more than $48 million, but also brought eleven defendants to justice and returned millions of dollars of stolen property,” said Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.
“We have brought these conspirators to justice, and they will pay a heavy price for the harm they have caused to the District of Columbia,” said District of Columbia U.S. Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor. “We will remain vigilant and bring to justice all those who seek to steal from our public coffers, whether they are public officials or private citizens.”
"IRS-Criminal Investigation has the financial investigators and expertise that are critical to locating the money and prosecuting the offenders,” stated C. Andre' Martin, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Special Agent in Charge. “Tax evasion is not a victimless crime. Honest, hardworking Americans pay the price when others choose to evade their tax obligations. No one is above the law!"
According to her plea agreement, Turnbull is the niece of Harriette Walters, a former manager within the District of Columbia Office of Tax and Revenue. Beginning no later than 1989, Walters began embezzling monies from the District of Columbia by preparing fraudulent property refund vouchers that listed entities created by Walters’ co-conspirators. Illegitimate property refund checks were then issued based on the fraudulent vouchers that were prepared by Walters.
From January 2001 to April 2007, 82 fraudulent District of Columbia checks totaling $24,521,720.66 were deposited into accounts for which Turnbull had signatory authority. Each deposit ranged in amounts between $74,299 to over $450,000. Turnbull never owned property in the District of Columbia.
During the course of the scheme, Turnbull also wrote personal checks totaling $226,000 to Walter Jones, then a Bank of America employee involved in the scheme.
As part of the scheme, on June 18, 2007, Turnbull deposited a fraudulent District of Columbia government check for a purported taxpayer “First American Home C/O D.F., Esq.” in the amount of $410,000 at a bank in Bowie, Maryland. On June 27, a bank employee spoke with D.F., a real estate attorney who obtained refunds of property tax overpayments for clients in the District of Columbia. The attorney stated that neither First American Home nor Turnbull was a client. On July 9, 2007, a bank employee met with Turnbull and requested information about her business to verify her claim to the funds from the property tax refund check. Two days later, Turnbull filed a trade name application for “First American Home,” listing herself as the business owner. She forwarded a copy of the trade name application and application for identification number to the bank. Bank personnel observed that the applications were filed after the bank had asked for supporting documentation from Turnbull.
On September 17, 2007, Turnbull hand delivered a letter written on District of Columbia government letterhead to the bank’s branch in Laurel, Maryland. The letter was addressed to “First American Home” and purported to confirm that the company had participated in the D.C. Tax Office’s annual real property tax sale and that Turnbull was a registered representative of the company. The signature of a tax office manager was forged.
Turnbull failed to file a tax return for 2007, failing to report the taxable income she gained from this fraudulent scheme.
Turnbull faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for receipt of stolen property; 20 years in prison and a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the transactions involved, whichever is greater, for conspiracy to commit money laundering; 30 years for mail fraud; and five years and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gain or loss, whichever is greater, for tax evasion. U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams, Jr. has scheduled her sentencing for February 4, 2009 at 9:30 a.m.
Harriette M. Walters, age 51, of Washington, D.C., pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on September 16, 2008 and faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy; 10 years for District of Columbia tax evasion; five years for federal tax evasion; and an order to pay restitution in the amount of $48,115,419.09. Alethia O. Grooms, age 52, of Clinton, Maryland and Samuel Earl Pope, age 61, of Washington, D.C. also pleaded guilty to their participation in the scheme. No sentencing date has been scheduled for these three defendants. U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia Emmet G. Sullivan has scheduled a status hearing for Harriette Walters on October 27, for Grooms on October 31 and for Pope on October 15, 2008.
Patricia A. Steven, age 73, of Harwood, Maryland; Robert Steven, age 55, of Edgewater, Maryland; Connie Alexander, age 52, of Bowie, Maryland; Richard Walters, age 49, of Bowie, Maryland; Walter Jones, age 33, of Essex, Maryland; Marilyn Yoon, age 40, of Derwood, Maryland; and Ricardo R. Walters, age 33, of Ft. Washington, Maryland, have pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland to their participation in the scheme. Patricia Steven, Robert Steven, Richard Walters and Alexander each face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for receipt of stolen property and 20 years in prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering at their sentencing scheduled by U.S. District Judge for the District of Maryland Alexander Williams, Jr. on November 10, December 8, November 4 and 17, 2008, respectively. Walter Jones faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the transactions involved, whichever is greater, for conspiracy to commit money laundering at his sentencing on a date which is not yet scheduled. Marilyn Yoon faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for possession of property obtained by fraud at her sentencing on December 4, 2008.
United States Attorneys Rod J. Rosenstein and Jeffrey A. Taylor thanked the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation; the Inspector General’s Office for the District of Columbia; the District of Columbia Office of Tax and Revenue, Criminal Investigation Division; the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration; and the District of Columbia Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Office of Integrity and Oversight for their investigative work. Mr. Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan Su and Deborah Johnston from the District of Maryland and Assistant United States Attorneys Timothy Lynch and David Johnson from the District of Columbia, who are prosecuting the case.