Ashburn Man Pleads Guilty to Identity Theft and Wire Fraud
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Kouame “Innocent” Tanoh, 53, of Ashburn, Virginia, pleaded guilty today to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in operating a longstanding fraudulent scheme used stolen personal identifying information and claimed over $400,000 in false tax refunds.
The investigation was initiated in August 2014, when the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police stopped Tanoh on a traffic violation. A subsequent search yielded several financial documents and fraudulent identification cards to include a driver’s license and Social Security card in the name of other individuals. Tanoh advised that he was in possession of the documents because he was a tax preparer, and the documents belonged to his clients. From there, several law enforcement agencies initiated an investigation into Tanoh’s illegal activities.
According to court documents, from April 2008 through February 2015, Tanoh obtained individuals’ names and personal identifying information, including their Social Security numbers and dates of birth. Tanoh acquired some of this information by holding himself out as being in the business of preparing tax returns, in part through a Virginia corporation called Alpha and Omega Financial Services. Some of the individuals who provided their personal information to Tanoh were clients of this business. Tanoh would then use peoples’ names and personal identifying information for several different purposes, including the preparation and filing of false and fraudulent federal and state tax returns that made false claims for tax refunds. To increase the amount of the refund requested by the fraudulent returns, Tanoh would add items to the returns, including false dependents, false businesses on the taxpayer’s Schedule C, false education expenses, and false moving expenses. The actual loss to the IRS and state departments of revenue as a result of the returns prepared and filed by Tanoh is over $400,000.
In addition to filing false tax returns, Tanoh also used and lived other people’s identities, in part because he had no legal status to work or remain in the United States. From at least 2009 through 2015, Tanoh used the names and personal identifying information of at least 8 individuals to seek and obtain employment, housing, and other items of value, such as bank accounts. To facilitate his use of these stolen identities, Tanoh would obtain false means of identification in these person’s names, including driver’s licenses and Social Security cards.
Tanoh faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the wire fraud charge and a mandatory consecutive term of two years in prison on the aggravated identity theft charge when he is sentenced on July 31, 2015. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Clark E. Settles, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations Washington, DC; Stephen L. Holl, Chief of Police, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority; Thomas J. Kelly, Special Agent in Charge of IRS-Criminal Investigations, Washington Field Office; David M. McGinnis, Acting Inspector in Charge of the Washington Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service; John Phillips, Assistant Inspector General for Investigations, Washington Field Office of the Inspector General’s Office of the U.S. Department of the Treasury; Michael McGill, Special Agent in Charge, Philadelphia Field Division of the Inspector General’s Office of the Social Security Administration, made the announcement after the plea was accepted by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis, III.
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations; the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police; IRS-Criminal Investigations; U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of the Inspector General; United States Postal Inspection Service; and the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine L. Wong and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Kimball are prosecuting the case.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:15-cr-99.