A federal jury convicted an Illinois woman on fraud and tax offenses for cashing her deceased grandmother’s pension checks and preparing false tax returns.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Eunice Salley, aka Eunice Sally Dobyns, aka Oya Awanata-Bey, aka Oya Awanata, 37, of Chicago, was found guilty on all 29 counts against her, including pension fraud, embezzlement, mail fraud and tax charges. The jury returned the verdicts Friday after a four-day trial in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
According to evidence presented at trial, Salley worked as a paid tax return preparer. In 2016 and 2017, Salley prepared and filed with the IRS 22 false individual income tax returns on behalf of clients. The returns, which sought more than $1 million in false refunds, contained fictitious wages and withholdings, as well as false medical, charitable and employment related expenses. Salley demanded that many of her clients pay her up to 50% of the refund, in addition to her regular preparation fee.
Evidence regarding the pension fraud revealed that Salley’s grandmother died in 2009 after having worked for American Can Co. After her death, the grandmother’s monthly pension checks continued to be delivered to the residence where Salley continued to reside. From January 2013 to December 2017, 33 pension checks, totaling $14,131, were issued to the grandmother and deposited into one of six bank accounts opened and controlled by Salley. On several occasions during that time Salley notarized and submitted to the pension plan administrator affidavits under her grandmother’s name, fraudulently affirming that the grandmother was alive. Salley did not report approximately $5,000 in income she received in 2017 from the pension checks that she embezzled.
Salley is scheduled to be sentenced on July 21 and faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison for mail fraud, five years in prison for each count of theft from an employee benefit plan, three years for each count of aiding and assisting the filing of a false tax return, and three years in prison for filing a false tax return. She also faces a period of supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division; U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch Jr. for the Northern District of Illinois; Special Agent-in-Charge Justin Campbell of IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) in Chicago; and Special Agent-in-Charge Emmerson Buie Jr. of the Chicago Field Office of the FBI made the announcement.
The IRS-CI and FBI investigated the case.
Assistant Chief Andrew Kameros of the Tax Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Jonas for the Northern District of Illinois are prosecuting the case.