Three Individuals Indicted for Tax Refund Fraud Scheme
A federal grand jury sitting in Portland, Oregon returned an indictment, unsealed today, charging three individuals with federal crimes related to hundreds of false federal income tax returns, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo, head of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, and U.S. Attorney Billy Williams for the District of Oregon.
Lawrence Collins and Icy Love Martin are charged with conspiring with Mystique Pratcher, who was charged elsewhere, to file at least 160 false federal income tax returns fraudulently claiming more than $680,000 in federal income tax refunds and theft of government funds. The indictment alleges that from approximately January 2009 through April 2012, Collins provided identities, addresses and bank accounts to Pratcher, which Pratcher used to prepare and file false federal income tax returns. The indictment further alleges that Collins provided Pratcher with a bank account in Martin’s name, to which Pratcher directed more than $20,000 in fraudulent refunds.
The indictment further charges Collins, Martin and Nigeria Crawford with conspiring to file at least 35 false federal income tax returns that fraudulently claimed more than $259,000 in federal income tax refunds. The indictment alleges that from approximately January 2012 through April 2014, Crawford prepared and filed false federal individual income tax returns using identities, addresses and bank accounts obtained through Collins. The indictment further alleges that Crawford directed more than $30,000 in fraudulently obtained tax refunds into Martin’s bank accounts and at least $32,000 in fraudulently obtained tax refunds to stored-value debit cards in Crawford’s name.
Martin also is charged with two additional counts of theft of government funds. Crawford also is charged with 14 counts of filing false, fictitious, or fraudulent claims, 14 counts of wire fraud, and four counts of aggravated identity theft arising out of the scheme, as well as two counts of theft of government funds for receiving $15,642 in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits and $7,681 in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits. The indictment alleges that, in applying for these benefits, Crawford failed to disclose wages and her receipt of fraudulently obtained individual income tax refunds.
If convicted, Collins, Martin and Crawford each face a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for each count of conspiracy to defraud the government, five years in prison for each count of filing false claims, 10 years in prison for each count of theft of government funds, 20 years in prison for each count of wire fraud and a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years for each count of aggravated identity theft. In addition, each defendant faces terms of supervised release and monetary penalties.
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo and U.S. Attorney Billy Williams thanked special agents of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, who conducted the investigation, and Tax Division Trial Attorney Leslie A. Goemaat and Assistant U.S. Attorney Quinn P. Harrington, who are prosecuting the case.
Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found on the division’s website.