News and Press Releases

Tuscumbia Man Sentenced for Using Fellow Inmates’ Information to Defraud IRS

January 24 , 2012

BIRMINGHAM – A federal judge sentenced a Tuscumbia man Monday to alnost six years in prison for a federal tax fraud conspiracy in which he took the Social Security numbers and birth dates of fellow prison inmates and used them to file false tax returns, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance, IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Rodney E. Clarke, FBI Special Agent in Charge Patrick Maley and Colbert County Sheriff Ronnie May.

U.S. District Judge Inge P. Johnson sentenced RICKY WALTER DENTON, 46, to 70 months in prison for conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service, mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Denton pleaded guilty to the charges in August.
Police discovered the evidence of tax fraud while investigating the December 2009 robbery of First Southern Bank in Colbert County. A federal jury convicted Denton in July for the First Southern armed bank robbery. He is scheduled for sentencing in that case Feb. 17.
“The cooperative work of law enforcement in these two cases closed the trail on someone who threatened another person’s life to steal money from a bank, and who took the identities of people around him so he could steal money from the taxpayers,” Vance said.
“The IRS is aggressively pursuing those who steal others’ identities in order to file false tax returns,” Clarke said. “Our vigorous enforcement efforts along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners will help protect taxpayers in the Northern Alabama area from being victimized by this tax-refund related identity theft. The IRS is taking additional steps this tax filing season to further prevent, detect and resolve identity theft cases as soon as possible. To learn more about IRS related identity theft, please visit
The tax fraud involved a three-year scheme in which Denton and a co-defendant, JOANN SMITH CHOAT, 55, also of Tuscumbia, conspired to obtain $148,685 in false income tax refunds by taking inmates’ identifying information and filing false returns. Judge Johnson sentenced Choat in August to one year and a day in prison for her role in the tax fraud.
According to court records, the couple conducted the scheme between January 2007 and May 2010. Denton obtained the identifying information of fellow inmates and used it to create the false tax forms, which he mailed to Post Office boxes in Tuscumbia that Choat had opened at his request.

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, Mary Stuart Burrell and Terence M. O’Rourke prosecuted the cases.





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