Eight People Charged In Tax Fraud Conspiracy
An indictment was unsealed Tuesday charging eight people in a tax fraud conspiracy that attempted to steal over $3 million was announced today by United States Attorney Zane David Memeger, IRS Special Agent-in-Charge Eric Hylton with the Criminal Investigation Division Philadelphia Field Office and IRS Acting Special Agent-in-Charge John R. Tafur with the Criminal Investigation Division NJ Field Office. Charged are: Michael Akers, 57, of Philadelphia and Cherry Hill, NJ, Raymond Holmes, 56, of Philadelphia, Wednell Cisco, 38, of York, PA and Suwanee, GA, William Fisher, 55, of Philadelphia, Lynell Matthews, 23, and Latoya Matthews, 27, both of Whitesboro, NJ, Maria Latorre, 28, of York, PA, and Jalon Hopewell, 27, of Philadelphia. All of the defendants, with the exception of Hopewell, were arrested. Hopewell is still being sought by investigators.
The indictment, returned on June 26, 2012, alleges that between September 2006 and March 2011, Akers began filing false tax returns on behalf of people who believed he was a legitimate tax preparer or who knew he was not. Akers would allegedly: inflate the amount of taxes paid by a tax filer, claim refunds to which the filer was not entitled, file the return electronically, have the refund electronically deposited into a bank account, and take a cut of the refund check. Each fraudulent return resulted in a refund in the thousands of dollars. Each of Akers’ co-defendants allegedly facilitated fraudulent returns. According to the indictment, the funds obtained through the filing of false, fictitious and fraudulent tax returns claimed refunds of in excess of approximately $3,223,343, on the basis of which the Department of the Treasury generated I.R.S. and refunds in excess of approximately $1,848,867.
The defendants are charged with conspiracy to file false claims, false claims, theft of government property, aggravated identity theft, wire fraud, credit card fraud and aiding and abetting. It also seeks forfeiture of a building in Philadelphia purchased with the proceeds of the alleged fraud. Through their conspiracy to commit tax fraud, the defendants succeeded in stealing over $1.8 million. Money was passed among members of the conspiracy in face to face hand-offs, and in wire transfers among some of the defendants.
The indictment charges each defendant with participating in the conspiracy to defraud the government by submitting false claims. It also charges seven of the eight defendants in 50 counts of false claims, and 20 counts of theft of government property. Defendant Michael Akers, charged in the indictment with leading the tax fraud ring, is named in each count of the 120-count Indictment.
In addition, members of the conspiracy are charged with stealing third parties’ identities. to file fraudulent tax returns or to hide from IRS investigators. Some people only learned that their identities had been stolen when they attempted to file their legitimate tax returns; some never knew.
If convicted of all charges, defendants Michael Akers, Raymond Holmes, Wendell Cisco, William Fisher, Jalon Hopewell and Maria LaTorre face a substantial prison term. Defendant Lynell Matthews faces a maximum possible statutory sentence of 10 years. Defendant LaToya Matthews faces a maximum possible statutory sentence of 69 years. Included in these maximum sentences for Akers, Holmes, Cisco, Fisher and LaToya Matthews is a mandatory two year term for aggravated identity theft.
The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division and the United States Secret Service. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Pamela Foa.
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, EASTERN DISTRICTof PENNSYLVANIA
Suite 1250, 615 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
PATTY HARTMAN, Media Contact, 215-861-8525