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Press Release

Milwaukee Man sentenced to 60 months’ imprisonment for fraudulent tax refund scheme.

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

Gregory J. Haanstad, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, announced that on January 4, 2023, Francis T. Burns (52) was sentenced to 60 months’ imprisonment for orchestrating a fraudulent tax refund scheme.  Burns was also ordered to pay restitution to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the amount of $1,127,960.45 and to spend two years on supervised release following his prison term.

In November 2020, a superseding indictment charged Burns with committing wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, and submitting a false claim to the IRS, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341, 1343, 1957, and 287. Burns went to trial and was convicted of all counts by a jury on October 5, 2022.

At trial, the United States proved that between 2016 and 2019, Burns engaged in a scheme to defraud the IRS into paying millions of dollars in refunds to which Burns was not entitled. To obtain those refunds, Burns claimed to be filing returns on behalf of a non-existent estate or a trust he made up. Burns’ false tax returns attached and were based on fake 1099s that falsely claimed significant sums of income were withheld for federal taxes by third parties such as banks. In reality, Burns was unemployed and there was no estate, no trust, and no income.

Over the period of the scheme charged in the indictment, Burns filed false tax returns asking for refunds totaling more than $80 million. Burns also subsequently filed additional false returns asking for over $2 billion. Although Burns did not receive the majority of the money, he spent the refunds he did receive on an expensive house in Chicago, a Mercedes, and other personal expenses. The IRS later seized and forfeited a significant percentage of the money, the house, and the car. Burns’ fraudulent scheme ultimately caused over $1 million in losses to the IRS.

In announcing the sentence, United States District Court Judge Lynn Adelman focused on the egregious nature of Burns’ continuing conduct despite receiving multiple warnings and communications from the IRS alerting him to the frivolous nature of his filings.

Judge Adelman noted that it was important to impose a significant sentence in order to send a message to other rational actors who might consider defrauding the IRS, particularly given that the United States’ tax system depends on the honesty of its tax-paying citizens.

“Today’s sentence is the direct result of Burns’ relentless efforts to defraud the IRS and line his own pockets at the expense of his fellow citizens,” states U.S. Attorney Haanstad.  “I commend the hard work of all involved in seeking to hold Burns responsible for his actions and to seek justice for every individual in this country who pays his or her fair share of taxes.”

 "Francis Burns engaged in a deliberate scheme to steal from the U.S. Treasury. In the process, he displayed a complete disregard for his fellow citizens," said Justin Campbell, Special Agent in Charge of IRS - Criminal Investigation, Chicago Field Office. "We are pleased that justice was served on behalf of honest taxpayers."

The Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service investigated this case, which Assistant United States Attorneys Julie F. Stewart and John P. Scully prosecuted.


For further information contact:

Public Information Officer

(414) 297-1700

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Updated January 5, 2023