News and Press Releases

United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington

Tacoma Man Sentenced To 33 Months In Prison For Tax Fraud Scheme

Filed Multiple False Income Tax Returns Claiming Refunds for Prison Inmates

April 8, 2013

            One of four people indicted for scheming to fraudulently claim more than $145,000 in tax refunds using the names and Social Security numbers of inmates at the Washington State Penitentiary at Walla Walla, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.  RICHARD SHANE WRIGHT, 43, was sentenced to 33 months in prison and three years of supervised release for conspiracy to defraud the government.  The alleged leader of the conspiracy, Kenneth Randle Door, is scheduled for trial later this year.  At sentencing, U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle ordered WRIGHT to pay $71,885 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Treasury and remarked, “the United States Treasury is not the real victim” of this serious offense; rather, “the real victims are the millions of people who will be filing their tax returns later this month. . . .  Our system relies upon folks who pay their taxes to fund the operation of what is still the greatest country on Earth  ̶  perhaps the greatest country that has ever existed.”

According to records filed in the case, WRIGHT joined the scheme in late March 2009, which was responsible for filing at least 31 fraudulent tax returns for tax years 2007 and 2008.  Door provided the names and Social Security numbers of his fellow inmates at the Washington State Penitentiary, which WRIGHT and others used to create and file fake W-2 forms and federal income tax returns, all claiming tax refunds due.  In order to fabricate employment and wage data, the conspirators identified companies that had declared bankruptcy and had recently closed. WRIGHT created fake W-2 forms indicating wages paid and taxes withheld from the individuals whose identities they used.  The refunds were typically directed to one of several bank accounts controlled by WRIGHT or another associate.  In all, the conspirators tried to obtain more than $145,000 in tax refunds, and nearly $72,000 was paid out.  Co-schemers Lucy Anne Hyder, aka Lucy Bailey, 53, was sentenced in February to eight months in prison, and Ruth Louise Branstetter, aka Ruth Bishop, 48, was sentenced last month to almost 7 months in prison.

“Stopping refund fraud remains a priority for IRS CI because when people steal from the U.S. Treasury the real victim is every honest taxpayer in America,” said Special Agent in Charge Kenneth J. Hines, of Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, in Seattle.  “These crimes are a threat to our nation’s ability to fund programs and services for our communities, and Special Agents of IRS CI will continue to work with our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office to detect these frauds, shut them down, and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

The case was investigated by Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Steven Masada.

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