News and Press Releases

Tuscumbia Woman Sentenced to One Year and a Day in Prison for Tax Fraud

August 31, 2011

BIRMINGHAM - A federal judge today sentenced a Tuscumbia woman to one year and a day in prison for a tax fraud conspiracy she helped a prison inmate conduct, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Reginael McDaniel.

U.S. District Judge Inge Johnson sentenced JOANN SMITH CHOAT, 55, for conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service, mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Choat pleaded guilty to the charges in June. The judge ordered her to pay $148,685 in restitution to the IRS.

Choat was involved in the tax fraud scheme with RICKY WALTER DENTON, 46, of Tuscumbia. Denton pleaded guilty to the conspiracy and mail fraud charges in August.

According to court records, the couple defrauded the IRS of $148,685 through falsified income tax forms between January 2007 and May 2010. Denton obtained Social Security numbers and other identifying information of fellow inmates and used that information to create false tax forms, which he mailed to Post Office boxes in Tuscumbia that Choat had opened at his request, according to Denton and Choat’s plea agreements.

Choat submitted the fraudulent tax forms to the IRS, and when she received refunds on them, deposited the $148,685 in U.S. Treasury checks into her personal credit union account, according to court records.

The IRS, FBI and Colbert County Sheriff’s Office investigated the cases. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Russell Penfield and Mary Stuart Burrell prosecuted the cases.





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