United States Attorney Anne M. Tompkins
Western District of North Carolina
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger sentenced a Polk Co. couple to prison on Thursday, April 24, 2014, for filing over 1,000 false tax returns and collecting more than $3.5 million in fraudulent tax refunds, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
Jeannine A. Hammett, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI) and Keith Fixel, Inspector in Charge of the Charlotte Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service join U.S. Attorney Tompkins in making today’s announcement.
Senita Birt Dill, 46, and Ronald Jeremy Knowles, 42, both of Mill Spring, N.C. were sentenced to 324 and 70 months in prison, respectively. In addition to the prison terms, Judge Reidinger ordered the defendants to serve three years under court supervision and to pay $3,978,211 as restitution to IRS. Dill ato nd Knowles pleaded guilty in October 2012 false claims conspiracy and access device fraud. Dill also pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft.
According to filed court documents and yesterday’s sentencing hearings, from 2009 to 2012, Dill and Knowles used fraudulently-obtained personal identification information (including names, dates of birth and social security numbers) to file false tax returns claiming tax refunds. Court documents indicate that the pair used tax preparation software programs to file and submit these fraudulent federal and state tax returns. According to court records, the tax returns contained fictitious information, such as the filer’s income and the amount of federal tax withheld. Court records show that the defendants were careful to use fictitious figures that maximized the amount of the claimed refund, while minimizing the risk of detection.
According to court records, the pairs’ elaborate tax scheme included renting a property on a lake which was surrounded by numerous vacation homes in the neighborhood. Court records show that Dill and Knowles used the neighboring addresses to fill out the fraudulent tax returns, and since the neighboring homes were not occupied daily, the couple was able to check the homes’ mailboxes frequently and retrieve the fraudulent refund checks upon delivery. According to court records, in addition to the addresses of lake homes, the defendants also used addresses in Greenville and Greer, S.C. on the fictitious tax returns, which is where Knowles’ business is located. Court records indicate that once they retrieved the refunds, the defendants deposited the refund checks directly into their bank accounts. On some occasions, the defendants received tax refunds in the form of pre-paid debit cards, court records show.
According to court records, Dill and Knowles filed over 1,000 false tax returns using the fraudulently obtained personal identification information. They also made fraudulent tax refund claims in excess of $5 million and actually received tax refunds totaling over $3.5 million.
The defendants have been in federal custody since October 2012. They will be transferred to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility. All federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.
The investigation of the case was handled by IRS and USPIS, with the assistance of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. The prosecution of the case is handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Don Gast of U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville.