Four Members of Philadelphia Identity Theft Ring Plead Guilty to Conspiring to File Fraudulent Tax Refund Claims
Four Philadelphia, Pennsylvania men pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to conspiring to file fraudulent tax refund claims, announced Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Louis D. Lappen for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
According to documents and information provided to the court, Philadelphia residents Ronald LaFortune, 40, Jean Celestin, 35, and Douge Francois, 26, conspired to use stolen IDs to file tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) fraudulently seeking tax refunds to which they were not entitled. LaFortune opened a bank account at Citizens Bank in Philadelphia in the name of “Ronald Tax Service,” though he did not actually have a tax service. LaFortune and his co-conspirators directed the IRS to deposit some of the fraudulently obtained tax refunds into this bank account. He then withdrew money from the account to provide to Celestin, Francois and other co-conspirators. Celestin and Francois cashed checks they received from LaFortune and kept a portion of the proceeds. Celestin recruited other individuals to join the conspiracy, and he transported cash proceeds from the scheme from Philadelphia to Miami. The defendants agreed that they caused a tax loss of $118,000.
U.S. District Court Judge John R. Padova set sentencing dates as follows: LaFortune is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 18; Celestin is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 18; and Francois is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 19. All three defendants face a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a period of supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties.
In a separate, but related scheme, according to documents and information provided to the court, Daniel Monville, 28, conspired with others to use stolen IDs to file tax returns with the IRS fraudulently seeking refunds to which he was not entitled. Despite not having a tax preparation business, Monville opened up a bank account in the name of “Daniel Tax Services” at Citizens Bank in Philadelphia to facilitate the crime. He admitted to causing a tax loss of $155,789.23.
Monville is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 13 also before Judge Padova. He faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on the conspiracy charge and five years in prison for aiding and abetting the filing of fraudulent tax refunds, as well as a period of supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties.
Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg and Acting U.S. Attorney Lappen commended special agents of IRS Criminal Investigation and the FBI, who conducted the investigation, and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Ignall and Trial Attorney Eric B. Powers of the Tax Division, who are prosecuting the case.
Additional information about the Tax Division’s enforcement efforts can be found on the division’s website.