May 19, 2011
WOMAN WHO STOLE UNCLAIMED FUNDS FROM GOVERNMENT AGENCIES CONVICTED
(HOUSTON) – A woman who obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of unclaimed funds and property tax refunds by stealing the identities of the lawful claimants has been convicted, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.
Roxann Michelle Thomas, 40, of Houston, pleaded guilty yesterday afternoon before U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore to conspiring to commit mail fraud and aggravated identity theft. She admitted to fraudulently obtaining more than $498,000 in tax refunds and unclaimed funds in January and February 2011, mostly from the Harris County Tax Office and Texas State Comptrollers’ Office. Thomas used public databases to locate the names of the persons owed money by these agencies, then used the true claimant’s personal identification information to fraudulently claim the funds.
The charges are the result of an investigation conducted by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service which began in January 2010 after a receipt of a tip from the Indiana Attorney General’s Office concerning a fraudulent claim for unclaimed funds. Around the same time, agents also received a tip from TD Ameritrade Bank concerning the deposit of numerous Harris County tax refund checks into an account that had been opened using a stolen identity. Through further investigative efforts, agents were able to determine that the person responsible for the fraudulent claims resided in an apartment in Houston.
On Feb. 23, 2011, federal agents executed a search warrant at the apartment where they discovered Thomas. Agents recognized Thomas from bank surveillance footage as the same person who had previously made withdrawals from the TD Ameritrade account into which fraudulently obtained refund checks were deposited. At the apartment, agents located numerous items linking Thomas to the scheme, including Harris County Tax Office and Texas State Comptroller checks issued in the names of other persons, fraudulent identifications, multiple cell phones and manila file folders with labels containing the names of victims whose identifications were used.
Also accused for her alleged involvement in this scheme is Tawana Renelda Scott, 29, who remains a fugitive. Anyone with information about her whereabouts can call the U.S. Postal Inspector's 24-hour National Law Enforcement Communication Center at 888-876-5322. Scott is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.
Thomas faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a $250,000 fine on the conspiracy to commit mail fraud conviction and a two-year-consecutive term and $250,000 fine for the aggravated identity theft conviction. Thomas had been previously released on bond and was allowed to continue on that bond pending her sentencing hearing, set for Oct. 17, 2011, at 9:30 a.m.
Assistant United States Attorney David Searle is prosecuting the case.
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