Conspirators Charged for Submitting False Tax Returns
to the Irs Using Deceased Identities
Detroit, Michigan - Two Detroit area tax preparers were arrested today for conspiracy to defraud the government by filing false tax returns and obtaining refunds, using the names and information of recently deceased individuals, United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced today.
United States Attorney McQuade was joined in the announcement by Steven Miller, Internal Revenue Service Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement and Special Agent in Charge Erick Martinez, IRS Criminal Investigation.
Renita Adams, 20, and Adreann Turnage, 21, both residents of Detroit, made appearances in federal court in Detroit today. Adreann Turnage was apprehended in Kingsland, GA. Willie T. Watkins, 41, of Southfield, remains a fugitive at-large.
According to court documents, Watkins, Adams, and Turnage conspired to defraud the United States by electronically submitting 352 false tax returns to the IRS and attempting to receive more than $800K in refunds. The tax returns filed in the scheme reported false household employee income and education credits. The complaint stated that Watkins and Adams maintained and controlled numerous bank accounts where the false tax return refunds were directly deposited. The false tax returns were submitted to the IRS in the names and social security numbers of deceased individuals. The decedents had all died within approximately a year prior to the filing of the false tax return in their names. The stolen identities included decedents from throughout the country, including Michigan, Massachusetts and Arizona. The identification information of the decedents used on the false tax returns had been obtained from various internet websites. Personal representatives for the estates of some of the decedents reported that the legitimate tax returns of the decedent were rejected because another return had already been filed and a refund issued.
Court documents indicate that one or more of the defendants had attended meetings at Detroit area hotels where they were instructed how to prepare and file such false tax returns. The defendants also recruited others to open bank accounts to receive the falsely generated refunds and then distribute the proceeds.
"The IRS is aggressively pursuing those who steal others' identities in order to file false returns," said Steven Miller, IRS Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement. "Our cooperative work with the U.S. Attorney's Office will help protect taxpayers in the southeastern Detroit area from being victimized by identity theft. The IRS is taking additional steps this tax season to further prevent, detect and resolve identity theft cases as soon as possible."
"Identity theft is a top priority for the IRS and IRS-Criminal Investigation plays an important role in combating this area of crime. For individuals who suspect they may be victims of identity theft, immediately contact the IRS at 1-800-908-4490 and www.IRS.gov/identitytheft." The Identity Theft Task Force, comprised of the Michigan State Police, Secret Service, Postal Inspection Service and IRS are dedicated to investigating identity theft crimes and holding individuals accountable. We are thankful to the Michigan State Police and Detroit Police Departments for their assistance in the enforcement operations, said Erick Martinez, Special Agent in Charge IRS-Criminal Investigation".
“Identity theft is a growing problem as we disclose more personal information on the Internet,” McQuade said. “Federal law enforcement is working to detect and prosecute identity thieves.”
Conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Government through the submission of false claims carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 per count.
A criminal complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are entitled to a fair trial during which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.