News and Press Releases

Memphis Residents Indicted In Tax Fraud
And Identity Theft Scheme

January 26, 2012

Memphis, Tenn. – Edward L. Stanton III, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, announced
today that a federal grand jury in Memphis has indicted six individuals allegedly involved in a tax fraud scheme involving ID theft. The indictment was handed down on December 15, 2011. Most of the individuals had their initial appearance in Memphis this week.

Charged in the indictment were: Aundria Bryant-Branch, 37; Nelise Wilson, 30; Tara Albright, 31; Antonio
Stevens, 34; Duane C. Ward, 29; and Takiya Brown, 27, all from the Memphis area. All six individuals were charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States by filing false and fraudulent federal tax returns. Bryant- Branch, Wilson, Stevens, and Ward were also charged with money laundering conspiracy. Additionally, Bryant- Branch was charged with ten counts of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of identity theft.

According to the indictment, Bryant-Branch orchestrated a tax refund scheme beginning in or about 2006 and continuing until approximately June 10, 2008. Bryant-Branch obtained stolen identification information and a stolen “Warrant Book” from the Memphis Police Department. This book listed individuals with outstanding arrest warrants. Bryant-Branch would give the stolen identification information to Brown and Albright, who then used it to prepare and electronically file false tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) claiming refunds without the taxpayer’s knowledge. These fraudulent returns generated either refund checks from the IRS or Refund Anticipation Loan (RAL) checks from the Bank and Trust of Santa Barbara.

The indictment states that Bryant-Branch recruited Wilson, Ward, and Stevens to open bank accounts at Regions Bank in the names of fictitious businesses entitled Chelsea Street Grocery and A & T Grocery. A total of $444,358.91 in fraudulently obtained tax refunds or RAL checks were deposited into these bank accounts between October 16, 2007 and March 3, 2008. The funds were then withdrawn by Bryant-Branch, Wilson, Ward, and Stevens for their personal benefit.

This investigation was conducted by IRS Criminal Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen C. Parker will represent the government.

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Note: An indictment is a form of accusation and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.


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