News and Press Releases

Two new jersey men sentenced to prison for fraud conspiracy that generated over $3 million in unearned tax refunds

July 25, 2011


TRENTON, N.J. – Two New Jersey men were sentenced to federal prison today for conspiring to file thousands of false and fraudulent federal income tax returns that caused the IRS to issue over $3 million in refund checks, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Johnson Coker, 45, of Old Bridge, N.J., and Adebowale Sheba, 40, of Somerset, N.J., were sentenced to 70 and 72 months in prison, respectively. Both defendants previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson to conspiracy to defraud the United States. Judge Wolfson also imposed the sentences today in Trenton federal court.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Beginning in January 2005, Coker, Sheba, and their co-conspirators purchased the personal identifying information of hundreds of identity theft victims – including their names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers. The defendants and their co-conspirators then used the personal information of the victims to create and file materially false and fraudulent individual income tax returns with the IRS in the victims’ names. The objective was to cause unearned income tax refund checks to be issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Coker, Sheba, and their co-conspirators used their home addresses or addresses they controlled on the tax returns so they could receive the checks. In total, they used approximately 41 separate addresses for this purpose.

They would then deposit the checks into approximately 24 separate bank accounts, and made cash withdrawals from the accounts or directed monies from those accounts to others they controlled.

From approximately January 2005 through October 2009, the conspirators filed thousands of returns that, combined, sought nearly $11.5 million in refund checks, approximately $3.2 million of which the IRS actually released.

In addition to the prison terms, Judge Wolfson sentenced Coker and Sheba each to serve three years of supervised release. Coker was ordered to pay $976,030.22 in restitution; Sheba was ordered to pay $609,521.34.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Postal Inspector in Charge Philip R. Bartlett; and special agents of IRS – Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Victor W. Lessoff; and the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Ryan, for the investigation leading to today’s sentences.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Magdo of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.


Defense counsel: John Caruso Esq., East Orange, N.J.

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