United States Attorney Anne M. Tompkins
Western District of North Carolina
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A Charlotte woman was sentenced in U.S. District Court today to 21 months in prison for her involvement in a tax refund fraud scheme, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
Joining U.S. Attorney Tompkins in making today’s announcement is Jeannine A. Hammett, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI).
Leeora Anderson, also known as “Leeora Robinson” and “Lou Robinson,” 42, of Charlotte was sentenced to 21 months in prison and three years of supervised release by U.S. District Court Judge Frank D. Whitney.
U.S. Attorney Tompkins said, “Tax fraudsters like Anderson pocket money by defrauding the government and leave the rest of us to pick up the tab for their illegal tax schemes. Today we are sending a clear message: tax fraud will not be tolerated and we will make sure tax fraudsters pay the price for their actions, both financially and in prison time.”
“IRS-CI is determined to stop these false tax refund schemes. The message this case sends is that participation in refund fraud schemes does not pay and those who do will be prosecuted,” stated IRS Special Agent in Charge Jeannine A. Hammett, Charlotte Field Office Criminal Investigation.
In February 2012, Anderson pleaded guilty to one count of false claims conspiracy. According to filed court documents and today’s sentencing hearing, from in or about 2005 through in or about 2009, Anderson participated in a false tax refund conspiracy by obtaining, or helping others obtain, fraudulent tax refunds from IRS based upon false tax returns. Court records show that Anderson recruited individuals to file fraudulent federal income tax returns using their own names and social security numbers. To perpetrate the fraud, according to court documents and court proceedings, Anderson created fictitious W-2 forms for the recruited individuals, which contained fictitious names of employers and fabricated amounts of wages and withholdings. Anderson then caused legitimate tax preparers to prepare and file false tax returns based on the fraudulent information on behalf of the individuals recruited by the defendant.
Court records show that in some instances Anderson accompanied the recruited individuals to the tax preparers’ offices where the individuals had tax returns prepared and filed electronically. The recruited individuals would then file for refund anticipation loans (“RAL”) through the tax preparer, which allowed the recruited individuals to receive cash advances on their false tax refunds from the financial institutions within three to five days after the fraudulent returns were electronically filed. Anderson then accompanied the recruited individuals to pick up the RAL checks and to cash them at check cashing services, all according to court records. Anderson and others would then keep a portion of loan proceeds. Court records indicate that Anderson’s scheme resulted in the filing of 57 false tax returns, falsely claiming approximately $331,949 as refunds from the U.S. government.
In pronouncing the sentence, Judge Whitney emphasized the importance of general deterrence in tax cases since the tax code is based on honesty and noted that serious punishment was necessary because tax fraud victimizes honest taxpayers. Judge Whitney ordered Anderson to pay restitution to IRS in the amount of $202,577.
At the sentencing hearing, Anderson was ordered to self-report to the Federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility. Federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.
The investigation was handled by the IRS. The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jenny G. Sugar, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte.