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Press Release

Three Plead Guilty to Tax Fraud Conspiracy that Sought Nearly $1 Million in Fraudulent Tax Refunds

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sequoiya D. Harris, 35, former resident of Sacramento and Stockton; John A. Owens Jr., 32, of Sacramento; and Dionne Thomas, 53, of Galt, pleaded guilty today to participating in a federal tax refund fraud conspiracy, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.

According to court documents, from at least February 2009 through April 2013, Harris, Owens, Thomas, and co-defendant Joe E. Rodriguez Jr. conspired to submit false tax returns in the names of themselves and others to obtain tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service based on false documents and information. The defendants used hundreds of fraudulent W-2 forms from multiple purported employers to make it appear as if the people listed on the returns worked at those companies and had portions of their wages withheld by the employers for federal tax purposes, but the W-2s, wages, and withholdings were false. The W-2s were used to seek tax refunds of the supposedly withheld wages, and as a basis to seek further tax credits.  Defendants often directed the tax refunds into a variety of bank accounts controlled by Thomas, Owens, and Rodriguez, after which those defendants would often share a substantial portion of the proceeds with Harris. Harris, Owens, and Thomas also had fraudulent tax returns in their own names filed in connection with the conspiracy. In total, the fraudulent tax returns connected to the conspiracy sought approximately $997,804 in tax refunds, of which over $570,000 was paid out by the IRS.

This case is the product of an investigation by the IRS Criminal Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher S. Hales is prosecuting the case.

Rodriguez, the fourth defendant, is scheduled for trial on June 24, 2019 in front of U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez. The charges are only allegations; he is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Harris, Owens, and Thomas are scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez on September 24, 2019. Each defendant faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

Updated May 15, 2019

Press Release Number: 2:17-cr-071 JAM