United States Attorney Anne M. Tompkins
Western District of North Carolina
FOUR RECEIVE PRISON SENTENCES FOR FRAUDULENT TAX REFUND SCHEME
Conspirators Operated in Gaston, Lincoln and Mecklenburg Counties
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Four out of seven defendants charged in a scheme to defraud the government by obtaining false and fraudulent income tax refunds were sentenced in U.S. District Court yesterday by Chief U.S. District Judge Robert J. Conrad, Jr., announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
U.S. Attorney Tompkins is joined in making today’s announcement by Jeannine A. Hammett, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI), Keith Fixel, Inspector in Charge of the Charlotte Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and Russell F. Nelson, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service (USSS), Charlotte Field Division.
The criminal indictment filed in March 2011 charged seven individuals with one count of conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to false claims, by filing fraudulent tax returns seeking refunds. The defendants prepared the fraudulent returns using stolen identity information of individuals in Puerto Rico.
Each of the four defendants sentenced today previously pled guilty to one count of false claims conspiracy:
• Dania Ramos, 36, of Lincolnton, pled guilty in July 2011 and was sentenced to 48 months in prison.
• Jose de Jesus, a/k/a Jose Ramos, 29, of Vale, pled guilty in July 2011 and was sentenced to 37 months in prison.
• Xiomara Amparo, 34, of Lincolnton, pled guilty in August 2011 and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
• Mildred DePena, 49, Lincolnton, pled guilty in August 2011 and was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison.
Of the three additional defendants charged in the indictment, Nelson Jimenez, 51, of Lincolnton pled guilty in August 2011 and is free on bond while waiting to be sentenced. Arileyda Amparo, 31, of Lincolnton, was a fugitive until she was arrested in October 2011. Arileyda Amparo entered a plea of guilty to one count of false claims conspiracy in January 2012, and is now in local federal custody awaiting sentencing. The last defendant named in the indictment, Johan Vargas, 22, of Hickory, remains a fugitive from justice.
According to the indictment, filed plea agreements and court proceedings:
From January 2010 through February 2011, the defendants participated in a scheme to defraud the U.S. Treasury Department by obtaining false tax refunds. To carry out their fraudulent scheme, the defendants obtained stolen identity information, including names and Social Security numbers of individuals in Puerto Rico, and prepared fraudulent federal tax returns using that information. The defendants carefully selected addresses within the Western District of North Carolina at locations where multiple mailboxes were clustered, and then caused the Treasury Department to mail the false tax refund checks to these specially chosen addresses. The defendants then used the Internet to check the delivery dates of the fraudulent refund checks, pulled the checks out of the mail at the chosen clustered addresses, and cashed the refund checks at various money services businesses located in North Carolina and elsewhere. The defendants then used the money for their own gain. The defendants sought fraudulent refunds totalling more than $3 million during 2010 and more than $2 million from January 2011 up until their arrest in mid-February of 2011.
In sentencing the defendants, Chief Judge Conrad stated with regard to the scheme that the fact that the false claims conspiracy was “hard to detect and easy to do” was a “bad combination” and noted the importance of deterrence in tax cases.
“Schemes that involve filing fraudulent tax refunds using stolen Social Security numbers are very complex and a growing epidemic,” said U.S. Attorney Tompkins. “My office is committed to working with our partners to identify tax fraud and go after those who defraud the tax system and obtain fraudulent refunds using the stolen identities of unsuspecting victims.”
“Tax refund schemes are especially egregious when identity theft is used to expand the scheme. IRS Criminal Investigation will respond to these schemes using every legal resource at our disposal,” said Special Agent in Charge Hammett.
Jose de Jesus will be transferred to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility. Ramos, DePena, and Xiomara Amparo remain free on bond and will-self report to the Federal Bureau of Prisons at a later date.
The case was investigated by IRS-CI, the USPIS, and the USSS. The prosecution is being handled for the government by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jenny Grus Sugar of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte.