Maryland Woman Sentenced to Federal Prison for Massive Identity Theft and Tax Fraud Scheme
A former bank employee was sentenced today to serve 87 months in prison for her role in a far-reaching identity theft and tax fraud scheme in which she used her position to help process deposits and withdrawals of nearly $1.1 million in fraudulently obtained federal income tax refunds.
Yvette Haden, 50, of Suitland, Maryland, is among approximately a dozen people who have pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to charges in one of the largest prosecutions to date involving the use of stolen identifying information. The overall case involves the filing of at least 12,000 fraudulent federal income tax returns.
The sentencing was announced by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr., Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Larry J. Wszalek for the Justice Department’s Tax Division, Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Kelly of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Washington Field Office, Acting Inspector in Charge David M. McGinnis of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Washington Division, Assistant Inspector General for Investigations John L. Phillips for the U.S. Department of Treasury, and Special Agent in Charge Kathy A. Michalko for the U.S. Secret Service’s Washington Field Office.
Haden pleaded guilty in April 2014 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and one count of bank fraud. She was sentenced by the Honorable Rosemary M. Collyer. As part of her plea agreement, Haden must pay $973,376 in restitution to the IRS and she also is subject to a forfeiture money judgment of the same amount. Upon completion of her prison term, Haden will be placed on three years of supervised release.
Haden was among participants in a massive and sophisticated identity theft and false tax refund scheme involving an extensive network of more than 130 people, many of whom were receiving public assistance. At least 12,000 fraudulent federal income tax returns were filed for the tax years of 2005 through 2012, seeking refunds of at least $40 million. The returns were often filed in the names of people whose identities had been stolen, including the elderly, people in assisted living facilities, drug addicts and incarcerated prisoners. The refunds listed more than 400 “taxpayer” addresses in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
The government’s evidence showed that participants in the schemes had various roles: some stole the identifying information; some permitted their personal identifying information to be used; some created and mailed the fraudulent federal tax returns; some permitted their addresses to be used for receipt of the refund checks; some helped cash the checks; some provided bank accounts for negotiation of checks; and some forged endorsements of identity theft victims on the refund checks.
According to the government’s evidence, from 2007 through 2010, Haden was employed as a financial services representative at a bank branch in Southeast Washington, D.C. She assisted co-conspirators in the scheme and violated the bank’s policies and procedures through a series of actions, including opening three business checking accounts in the names of three purported sole proprietorships. Haden, who at the time of her crimes had more than 25 years of banking industry experience, was solely responsible for verifying client identities and documents and entering client information directly into the computer. Once the accounts were opened, Haden aided the co-conspirators by processing deposits of fraudulently obtained U.S. income tax refund checks, as well as withdrawals. To hide her activity, she falsified slips documenting withdrawals. Haden was compensated by one of the co-conspirators for her role in the offenses.
Also, according to the government’s evidence, Haden opened a checking account in her own name at a credit union in 2012 and deposited or transferred 14 refund checks to that account.
In total, from June 2010 through November 2012, Haden negotiated 398 fraudulent income tax refund checks totaling $1,024,271.
In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen, Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Wszalek, Special Agent in Charge Kelly, Acting Inspector in Charge McGinnis, Assistant Inspector General Phillips and Special Agent in Charge Michalko commended those who investigated the case. They also acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including former Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri L. Schornstein and Paralegal Specialist Donna Galindo. Finally, they expressed appreciation for the work of Assistant U.S. Attorney Ellen Chubin Epstein of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Fraud and Public Corruption Section and Trial Attorneys Jessica N. Moran and Jeffrey B. Bender of the Tax Division, who are prosecuting cases in the investigation.