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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tax Refund Schemer Pleads Guilty

PHILADELPHIA - Jonathan Brownlee, 28, of Philadelphia, pleaded guilty today to four counts stemming from a tax fraud scheme that sought to bilk the government of over $600,000.  Brownlee admitted that he conspired with others to file false tax claims by obtaining and using the personal identifying information of several individuals, including their Social Security numbers, sometimes under false pretenses.  Brownlee used the information to prepare and file bogus tax returns claiming fraudulent refunds and directed the refunds to be deposited into bank accounts that he and his co-conspirators controlled.  He pleaded guilty to conspiracy and three counts of filing a false claim.  A sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 10, 2013.

Brownlee’s co-conspirators - Christopher Brownlee, 36, Anthony Foster, 43, and Paul Rawls, 53, all of Philadelphia - were each charged with conspiracy and filing false claims on tax returns with the IRS.  Rawls pleaded guilty to conspiracy and one count of filing a false claim on June 25, 2013.  A sentencing hearing for Rawls is scheduled for September 24, 2013.

The tax returns fraudulently reported that the individuals for whom Brownlee had prepared the returns, were entitled to receive a $7,500 refundable tax credit under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.  The returns were false because those individuals had not purchased new homes and thus were not eligible to apply for the refundable tax credit.  Some of the individuals---in whose name the returns had been prepared and filed---were not aware that Brownlee and his co-conspirators had used their Social Security numbers for the purpose of filing the false returns.  The indictment was the first in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania involving fraud effecting the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.   

Brownlee faces a maximum possible sentence of 25 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.

The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division and the Office of Inspector General for the United States Social Security Administration.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Floyd J. Miller and Patrick J. Murray.

Suite 1250, 615 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
PATTY HARTMAN, Media Contact, 215-861-8525

Updated December 15, 2014