United States Attorney Anne M. Tompkins
Western District of North Carolina
Defendants Used False Tax Identification Numbers to Seek more than
$3 Million in Tax Refunds
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Two defendants charged in a scheme to defraud the government by obtaining false and fraudulent income tax refunds have pleaded guilty in federal court, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
Jeannine Hammett, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division 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.
Candida Figueroa, 41, of Charlotte, entered a plea of guilty today before U.S. Magistrate Judge David S. Cayer to one count of false claims conspiracy. Her co-defendant, Cathy Cisneros, 30, of Charlotte, pleaded guilty to the same charge on October 24, 2012. Both defendants have agreed to pay full restitution, the final amount of which will be determined by the Court at sentencing.
In September 2012, a superseding criminal indictment charged Figueroa and Cisneros with false claims conspiracy. According to filed court documents and today’s plea hearing, from January to July 2012, Figueroa and Cisneros agreed to defraud the U.S. Treasury Department by participating in a scheme to obtain false tax refunds, using fraudulently obtained Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs).
Court records show that the co-conspirators obtained ITIN numbers for various individuals using Mexican birth certificates and other documents. The defendants then used these ITIN numbers to prepare fraudulent federal tax returns seeking refunds based on false wage, income, and withholding tax information and claiming multiple dependents. According to filed court records, as part of the scheme, the defendants rented apartments at complexes featuring centralized mailboxes. The defendants then used multiple addresses at those apartment complexes on the fraudulent tax returns they submitted to IRS seeking tax refunds. Figueroa and Cisneros caused the Treasury Department to mail the false tax refund checks to these specially chosen addresses, court records indicate.
According to the superseding indictment and information presented in court, at least 804 fraudulent tax returns have been associated with the conspiracy, claiming $3.8 million in refunds. Of this amount, the IRS issued refunds totaling approximately $1.6 million. As part of the conspiracy, the defendants arranged for the Treasury checks to be cashed, and then deposited the cash into bank accounts or held it in safety deposit boxes before wiring it to Mexico. The amount recovered by law enforcement so far is $136,334.
Figueroa and Cisneros face a maximum prison term of 10 years, a $250,000 fine, or both. The defendants have been in local federal custody since August 2012. Their sentencing dates have not been set yet.
The case was investigated by the IRS-Criminal Investigations Division with substantial assistance from the U.S. Postal Service. The prosecution is being handled for the government by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jenny Grus Sugar and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Kostyshak of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte.