News and Press Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

WEDNESDAY - January 13, 2010

SIX SENTENCED IN MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR TAX FRAUD CASE;

FILER OF FALSE RETURNS GETS 106 MONTHS IN PRISON

RALEIGH - United States Attorney George E.B. Holding announced yesterday’s sentencing of ROBERT LEONARD COOMBS, the leader of a large tax fraud scheme involving the filing of false individual income tax returns. COOMBS 47, of Southport, North Carolina, was sentenced by Senior United States District Judge W. Earl Britt to a prison term of 106 months, and was ordered to pay restitution to the Internal Revenue Service in an amount in excess of $1.6 million.

Five of COOMBS’ co-defendants in United States v. Coombs et al., 7:09-CR-44-BR, were previously sentenced by Judge Britt on January 4, 2010: TIMOTHY DANIEL TROTT, 24, of Southport, North Carolina, was sentenced to 37 months imprisonment; CHARLES LEWIS CRITZER, 63, of Waynesborough, Virginia, was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment; LEWIS A. SHELTON, 48, of Southport, North Carolina, was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment; TAMI E. SHELTON, 49, of Southport, North Carolina, was sentenced to five years probation; and TIMOTHY M. DESFONDS, 28, of Winnabow, North Carolina, was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment. All were ordered to pay restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.

The evidence presented at the sentencings and in other proceedings in the case established that, from 2003 through 2005, defendant COOMBS filed approximately 500 false individual income tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service, claiming in excess of $3 million in refunds. The returns typically claimed large tax refunds based on false statements concerning the payment of federal gasoline taxes, and false occupations that would make reported payments appear legitimate. The fraudulent returns generated at least $1.6 million in “refunds” from the IRS.

COOMBS’ co-defendants assisted COOMBS in the scheme. Several defendants, in addition to having false returns filed in their own names, brought COOMBS the identifying information of others so that COOMBS could generate additional fraudulent claims for payment. On more than one occasion, the identifying information used by COOMBS was stolen and was used without the victim’s knowledge.

Furthermore, each of COOMBS’ co-defendants contributed significantly to the scheme by using a bank account or accounts to collect the fraudulent refunds and ensure that the defendants collected a significant portion of the refunds.

“Our tax system depends heavily on the honesty of those who prepare and file returns, and receive refunds. This case sends a strong message that those who abuse this trust by using the tax system to steal from the country’s treasury will be aggressively prosecuted and punished,” said United States Attorney George E. B. Holding.

“As we approach tax filing season, those who might consider preparing false tax returns should be aware of the extremely negative consequences as evidenced yesterday,"said JeannineA.Hammett, Special Agent in Charge of theCharlotte Field Office."Yesterday's sentencing of Mr.Coombsand last weeks sentencings of his co-conspiratorsemphasizes that the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Attorneys office will continue their aggressive pursuit of those who would attempt to defraud America's tax system."

Investigation of the case was conducted by the Criminal Investigative Division of the IRS. The case was handled by the Economic Crimes Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, with Section Chief Clay C. Wheeler prosecuting the case for the United States.

News releases are available on the U. S. Attorney’s web page at www.usdoj.gov/usao/nce within 48 hours of release.

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