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NEWS RELEASE

OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY

WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI


JOHN F. WOOD


Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106

www.usdoj.gov/usao/mow/index.html


SEPTEMBER 3, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


KC WOMAN PLEADS GUILTY TO ROLE IN $15 MILLION

TAX FRAUD CONSPIRACY


            KANSAS CITY, Mo. – John F. Wood, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Kansas City, Mo., woman pleaded guilty in federal court today to her role in a multi-million dollar conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service. The wire fraud scheme involved stealing the identities of hundreds of victims, primarily nursing home residents, which were used to seek more than $15 million in fraudulent federal tax refunds.


             Jeanette Alexander, 40, of Kansas City, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple this afternoon to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to aiding and abetting wire fraud.


             Alexander is the fifth defendant to plead guilty to the charges contained in a July 18, 2007, federal indictment. Co-defendant Vincent Niagwara Ogega, 24, a citizen of Kenya residing in Independence, Mo., pleaded guilty and was sentenced on Aug. 7, 2008, to 12.5 months of incarceration and ordered to pay $69,300 in restitution. Co-defendants Loretta Wavinya, 31, and Lillian Nzongi, 27, both citizens of Kenya residing in Kansas City, Mo., and Rashira Lewis, 21, of Kansas City, Mo., have pleaded guilty and await sentencing.


             Conspirators stole identity information (including Social Security numbers), predominantly from elderly nursing home patients, and used it to file at least 365 fraudulent federal tax returns from February 2005 to July 2007. They also filed fraudulent tax returns seeking refunds in 27 different states. Conspirators caused numerous bank accounts in Kansas City and elsewhere to be opened specifically for the purpose of receiving electronic fund transfers of tax refund payments.


             Alexander’s main role in the scheme was to receive fraudulent refunds into her bank accounts and then withdraw the money and provide it to her co-conspirators. Alexander admitted that the total attempted loss attributable to her conduct is $394,613.


             Conspirators initially told Alexander that they had “grant money coming from Africa,” and they claimed that they could not open bank accounts to receive the money because they were from Kenya and they were not U.S. citizens. Alexander later learned that the “grant money” story was not true; the money actually constituted tax refunds from fraudulent tax returns. Nonetheless, Alexander agreed to participate and continued to participate in the scheme. Conspirators drove Alexander to banks to cash checks and make withdrawals. She turned the cash over to them after she withdrew it, and they paid her a portion of the proceeds.


             In June 2006 Alexander registered a fictitious entity called “Prizma Tax Services” with the state of Missouri. At the time, Alexander knew this was not a real business and that the purpose of it was to help obtain fraudulent tax refund money from the bank. The next day, she opened accounts at several banks. She was supposed to receive $1,000 when the money was deposited into her account.


             Some of the money obtained by the conspiracy was wired to banks in Kenya, where refund money was sometimes withdrawn directly from accounts through automated teller machine (ATM) withdrawals occurring in Kenya.


            Under federal statutes, Alexander could be subject to a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $500,000 and an order of restitution. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.


            This case is being prosecuted by Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel M. Nelson and Assistant U.S. Attorney Curt Bohling. It was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, IRS-Criminal Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Secret Service.


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This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, is available on-line at

www.usdoj.gov/usao/mow/index.html