Former West Haven Employee and State Representative Sentenced to Prison for Stealing COVID Relief and Other City Funds
Vanessa Roberts Avery, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut; announced that EDWIN F. GUTIERREZ, 45, a citizen of Ecuador residing in East Haven, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton in New Haven to six months of imprisonment, followed by two years of supervised release, for participating in a tax refund fraud scheme.
According to court documents and statements made in court, from approximately May 2013 to April 2017, Gutierrez and several other Ecuadoran nationals participated in a scheme to illegally obtain tax refunds from the IRS. In order to obtain the refunds, some of Gutierrez’s co-defendants filed fraudulent federal tax returns, in the names of other foreign nationals (“claimants”), with the IRS. The fraudulent tax returns stated that the claimants resided in the U.S., earned wages from companies in the U.S., and had federal income tax withheld from the claimants’ wages. In truth, the claimants never worked for or earned income from those companies. In addition, U.S. Customs and Border Protection have no records of the claimants even being present in the U.S. during the tax years for which the returns were filed. Based on these false tax returns, the IRS issued tax refunds, which were then deposited into bank accounts that were controlled by Gutierrez and some of his co-defendants.
Through this scheme, Gutierrez and his associates obtained 142 tax refunds, totaling approximately $435,500. Gutierrez personally deposited 69 of those refunds, totaling approximately $215,460, into his own bank accounts. Gutierrez and his associates spent some of the proceeds for their personal use, and they wired some of the proceeds to relatives in Ecuador.
Judge Arterton ordered Gutierrez to pay restitution of $215,460.
Gutierrez, who is released on bond, is required to report to prison on May 10.
On July 16, 2021, Gutierrez and three others with were arrested on an indictment charging them with various offenses stemming from this scheme. On October 12, 2022, Gutierrez pleaded guilty to theft of public money. Gutierrez’s co-defendants pleaded guilty to related charges.
This matter has been investigated by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, with the assistance of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Enforcement and Removal Operations.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Neeraj N. Patel.