nixa man sentenced to prison in false tax claim conspiracy
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that a Nixa, Mo., man was sentenced Tuesday in federal court for attempting to defraud the government by claiming a tax refund for himself, and helping others claim tax refunds to which they were not entitled.
Jason Andrew Powell, 32, of Nixa, was sentenced on December 21, 2010 by U.S. District Judge Richard E. Dorr to 17 months in federal prison without parole, 3 years of supervised release, and $71,622 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.
“This investigation serves to remind us that there is no such thing as free money, and there are no awards or incentives for creativity when it comes to crime,” said Toni Weirauch, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation, St. Louis Field Office. “CI and the U.S. Attorney’s office will continue to aggressively pursue those who file false tax returns to claim refunds for which they are not entitled. As we approach tax filing season, those who might consider getting involved in fraudulent tax schemes should be aware of the negative consequences, as evidenced today.”
On September 14, 2010, Powell pleaded guilty to conspiring to file false and fraudulent claims with the federal government. Powell admitted that he created false forms W-2 for himself and others using employer names of two non-existent companies, listing wages that were never actually earned, and listing federal income tax amounts that were never actually withheld or paid. Powell and his co-conspirators used these false forms W-2 to have fraudulent federal income tax returns prepared and filed, in order to receive large refunds.
Co-conspirator Max R. Snodgrass, 32, of Springfield, was sentenced for his role in two separate cases by Judge Dorr on June 1, 2010 to four years and seven months in federal prison without parole. One case involved a bank fraud conspiracy and the other involved a tax refund fraud scheme. In the tax scheme, Snodgrass admitted that he attempted to obtain, and assisted others in obtaining, fraudulent tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service by filing false 2007 federal income tax returns. Like Powell, Snodgrass used his computer to create false forms W-2 for a sham business, which he and co-conspirators took to tax preparers and caused fraudulent federal returns to be filed electronically. On January 30, 2008, Snodgrass filed a false 2007 tax return, claiming a $4,845 refund to which he was not entitled. However, the IRS detected the fraud, and no refund was issued.
In addition to Powell and Snodgrass, several other co-conspirators have entered guilty pleas in federal court to filing false claims for federal income tax refunds, and are awaiting sentencing.
On November 30, 2010, Jeremy Michael Whitcher, 29, of Springfield, Mo., pleaded guilty to filing a false 2007 return, using a false form W-2 created by Powell. As a result of the false return, the IRS issued a refund to Whitcher in the amount of $8,156. Subsequent to and because of the false return, Whitcher received an economic stimulus check from the United States Treasury in the amount of $600.
On December 9, 2010, Michael Hammond, 39, of Springfield, Mo., pleaded guilty to filing a false 2007 return using a false W-2 Powell created by, from which Hammond received a $10,983 refund.
On December 9, 2010, Michael Herrod, 42, of Bolivar, Mo., pleaded guilty to filing a false 2007 return using a false W-2 created at Powell's direction, from which Herrod received a $9,126 refund and a $600 economic stimulus check from the United States Treasury.
On December 10, 2010, Talor Lafferty, 29, of Springfield, Mo., pleaded guilty to filing a false 2007 return using a false W-2 Snodgrass created, from which Lafferty received a $5,699 refund and a $900 economic stimulus check.
On December 15, 2010, Jason Powell's former wife, Stephanie Kay Gann, 32, of Nixa, Mo. (also known as Stephanie Powell and Stephanie Appleby), pleaded guilty to filing a false 2007 return using a false W-2 Snodgrass created, from which Gann received a $3,373 refund and a $600 economic stimulus check.
On December 21, 2010, Christopher Muirhead, 38, of Springfield, Mo, pleaded guilty to filing a false 2007 return using a false W-2 Powell created, from which Muirhead received a $9,126 and a $600 economic stimulus check.
On December 22, 2010, William Paul Crocker, 48, of Nixa, Mo., pleaded guilty to filing a false 2007 income tax return using a false W-2 Powell created, from which Crocker received a $1,690 refund and a $600 economic stimulus check.
Sentencing dates for the remaining defendants will be set following completion of pre-sentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.
These cases were prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven M. Mohlhenrich. They were investigated by IRS Criminal Investigation.