Niece of Leader in D.C. Property Tax Refund Fraud Scheme Sentenced to 9 Years in Prison
Over $24 Million in Fraudulently Obtained D.C. Government Checks Deposited into Accounts Held by Jayrece Turnbull
Greenbelt, Maryland - U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams, Jr. sentenced Jayrece Turnbull, age 34, of Bowie, Maryland, today to nine years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for 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. Judge Williams also ordered Turnbull to pay $24,521,720.66 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.”
“Money laundering is tax evasion in progress. Tax evasion is not a victimless crime; taxes are essential to ensure the smooth and efficient operation of our government,” stated C. Andre' Martin, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge. “All Americans have a duty to pay their fair share.”
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 money 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. The deposits ranged from $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.
Harriette M. Walters, age 52, of Washington, D.C., pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia 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. U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia Emmet G. Sullivan has scheduled her sentencing for May 14, 2009 at 10:15 a.m. 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 and are scheduled to be sentenced on April 28, 2009 and May 5, 2009, respectively, both at 10:15 a.m.
Judge Williams sentenced Ricardo R. Walters, age 33, of Ft. Washington, Maryland, on July 23, 2008 to 78 months in prison for receipt of stolen property and conspiracy to commit money laundering, and ordered Ricardo Walters to pay $4,205,318 in restitution. Judge Williams sentenced Richard Walters, age 49, of Bowie, Maryland, who is Harriette Walters’ brother, on November 4, 2008 to 51 months in prison for receipt of stolen property and conspiracy to commit money laundering, and ordered Richard Walters to pay $4,900,199 in restitution. On December 8, 2008, Judge Williams sentenced former IRS employee Robert O. Steven, age 55, of Edgewater, Maryland, to 46 months in prison, and his wife Patricia A. Steven, age 73, of Harwood, Maryland, to 70 months in prison, for receipt of stolen property and conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with the scheme and ordered that each pay $8,833,310.32, and, in order to satisfy such money judgment, to forfeit three Jaguar cars, two residences, jewelry and monies held in four bank accounts. On December 11, 2008, Marilyn Yoon, age 40, of Derwood, Maryland, was sentenced to a year and a day in prison for possession of property obtained by fraud and Judge Williams also ordered that Yoon pay restitution of $526,130. Walter Jones, age 34, of Essex, Maryland, was sentenced on January 5, 2009, to 78 months in prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering and was ordered to pay restitution of $17,941,817.30.
Connie Alexander, age 53, of Bowie, Maryland has also pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme and faces 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 her sentencing scheduled by Judge Williams for May 6, 2009.
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.