Alabama and Georgia Women Plead Guilty to Involvement in $4 Million Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Ring
Two Phenix City, Alabama, women and a Columbus, Georgia, woman pleaded guilty for their roles in a stolen identity refund fraud (SIRF) conspiracy, Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Justice Department's Tax Division and U.S. Attorney George L. Beck Jr. of the Middle District of Alabama announced today.
Tamaica Hoskins, a resident of Phenix City, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Alabama to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Roberta Pyatt, also of Phenix City, previously pleaded guilty on Feb. 25 to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Lashelia Alexander, of Columbus, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud on Nov. 18, 2014. According to court documents, between September 2011 and June 2014, Hoskins, Pyatt and others filed more than 1,000 false federal income tax returns using stolen identities and requested more than $4 million in tax refunds. Hoskins obtained stolen identities from various sources, including the identities of employees from a Columbus company.
In order to file the false tax returns, Hoskins and Pyatt obtained two Electronic Filing Identification Numbers (EFINs) in the names of sham tax businesses. The tax refunds claimed on the false returns were paid out via prepaid debit cards, U.S. Treasury checks and deposits to financial institutions connected to the business EFINs that allowed participants in the scheme to print refund checks and obtain prepaid debit cards. Hoskins and Pyatt cashed fraudulent refund checks at several businesses located in Alabama and Georgia.
Lashelia Alexander worked for Walmart’s money center located in Columbus. In January 2014, Alexander was approached about cashing fraudulent tax refund checks that were issued in the names of third parties. In return for cashing the checks, Alexander would receive payment. Alexander cashed more than $100,000 in fraudulently obtained third-party refund checks issued based on false tax returns that were filed by Hoskins and Pyatt.
At sentencing, the defendants face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for wire fraud conspiracy. Hoskins also faces a minimum mandatory consecutive sentence of two years in prison and a statutory maximum fine of $250,000 for aggravated identity theft.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo and U.S. Attorney Beck Jr. commended special agents of Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, who investigated the case, and Trial Attorneys Michael C. Boteler and Gregory P. Bailey of the Tax Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Brown of the Middle District of Alabama, who are prosecuting the case.