Two Northern California Women Plead Guilty to Conspiracy to Fraudulently Obtain Tax Refunds
SACRAMENTO, Calif. —Denna Chambers, aka Denna Rice, 35, of Fairfield, pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiring to defraud the United States, United States Attorney McGregor Scott announced. Co-defendant, Starsheka Mixon, 34, of Pinole, previously pleaded guilty to the same charge on February 8, 2018.
“The harm caused by these defendants goes beyond simply cheating the government,” said Michael T. Batdorf, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation. “Stealing identities and filing false tax returns is a serious crime that has a devastating impact on the victims whose identities they stole to perpetrate this crime. CI will continue to investigate these crimes and hold those responsible fully accountable.”
According to court documents, between approximately January 2011 and June 2013, Chambers and Mixon conspired together and with others to fraudulently obtain tax refunds by filing false tax returns in the names of other people with the Internal Revenue Service. The tax returns included false statements about the taxpayers’ income, dependents, and occupations in order to obtain refunds and tax credits to which the taxpayers were not entitled, including the Earned Income Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit. Some of the fraudulent tax returns used the name and personal information of individuals without their knowledge or consent. The fraudulently obtained refunds were typically placed on prepaid debit cards controlled by Chambers, Mixon, or their associates. In their respective plea agreements, Chambers and Mixon both admitted that in all, approximately 174 false federal income tax returns were filed seeking over $880,000 in tax refunds, of which approximately $477,348 were paid out by the IRS.
This case was the product of an investigation by IRS Criminal Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Shelley D. Weger is prosecuting the case.
Chambers and Mixon are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Morrison C. England, Jr. on May 24, 2018. Both Chambers and Mixon face a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison, restitution, and a fine of $250,000. 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.
The continued effort by the IRS to combat identity theft and refund fraud has led to steep declines in tax-related identity theft. The IRS, state tax agencies, and the tax industry have started their third filing season working as the Security Summit, a private-public sector partnership formed in 2015 to combat identity theft. Summit partners have put in place multiple behind-the-scenes safeguards that are helping protect the nation’s taxpayers. Because the IRS and Summit partners have stepped up efforts to stop suspected fraudulent returns from entering tax processing systems, there continues to be a substantial decline in the number of taxpayers reporting that they are victims of identity theft. In 2017, the IRS received 242,000 reports from taxpayers compared to 401,000 in 2016 and 677,000 victim reports in 2015. Overall, the number of identity theft victims has fallen nearly 65 percent between 2015 and 2017.
These efforts go hand-in-hand with the work done by IRS Criminal Investigation, where special agents continue working to bring identity thieves to justice across the nation.