Florida Woman pleads guilty to running stolen identity fax fraud scheme
St. Louis, MO -TANIA HENDERSON, of Wesley Chapel, Florida, pled guilty to filing false tax returns using stolen identification of other people. She entered her plea in federal court in St. Louis before United States District Judge Carol E. Jackson.
According to court documents, between July and November 2012, Henderson’s plan involved obtaining the personal information of individuals, including their names and social security account numbers, and using the information to submit tax returns in the names of those individuals whose identities she had stolen. She manipulated the numbers on those tax returns so that the taxpayer would be due a refund-- typically in the $7,000-$8,000 range and used family and friends to receive and liquidate these refunds.
U.S. Attorney Richard G. Callahan observed that, "It used to be that most of the people we prosecuted for tax fraud were cheating on their own tax returns. Now, most of the people we are prosecuting for tax fraud are cheating with other people's tax returns."
The prosecution claims at least 236 bogus tax returns were filed in the names of victims of identity theft. Additionally, nearly 200 other individuals had their stolen identities used elsewhere in these returns. In all, the tax returns generated at least $1,824,919 in illegal refunds. The IRS was able to recall or intercept some of these refunds before they came into the control of Henderson and her network of friends and family. However, approximately $1,363,384 made it into her control, which she shared with her friends and family. She also used it to rent a luxury home in suburban Tampa, Florida, and purchase BMW and Jaguar sports cars and expensive electronics.
"The defendants who perpetrated this scheme systematically defrauded the government and the taxpaying public," said Sybil Smith, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation. "Protecting taxpayer money is a matter we take very seriously, and IRS Criminal Investigation will continue to vigorously pursue those who unjustly enrich themselves by preparing false claims for tax refunds."
Henderson pled guilty to one felony count of theft/embezzlement of public money and four counts of aggravated identity theft. She now faces a maximum penalty of ten years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000 for theft of public money. Each count of aggravated identity theft carries a penalty of two years, which must run consecutively to any other sentence. In determining the actual sentences, a Judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges. Sentencing has been set for July 30, 2013.
Three other individuals have pleaded guilty to their role in this scheme. Patrina Taylor, Creve Coeur, pled guilty in March to stealing government funds as part of the scheme. Taylor admitted she attempted to cash a United States treasury check that was generated as a tax refund for a return filed in the name of a deceased individual and made payable to a second deceased individual. Sentencing for Taylor has been set for June 2013.
In addition to Taylor, among those enlisted to receive and liquidate refunds were Jason
Bibbs and Betty Kirkendoll, both of whom resided in the Eastern District of Missouri. Bibbs and Kirkendoll have previously entered guilty pleas and await sentencing.
Henderson’s husband, Dwayne Denard Johnson, also of Wesley Chapel, Florida, has been indicted for theft of government funds and aggravated identity theft and awaits trial in the Eastern District of Missouri. As is always the case, charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt. Mr. Johnson is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Tom Albus is handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.