Georgia Woman Sentenced to 46 Months in Tax Fraud Scheme
Montgomery, Alabama – Regina Renee Ellis, 49, of Fairburn, Georgia, was sentenced on January 12, 2017 to 46 months in prison following her conviction on federal access device fraud charges, announced George L. Beck, Jr., United States Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama. Ellis had previously pled guilty to this charge in September 2016.
Evidence collected during the investigation established that in July 2013, officers with the Auburn Police Department met with employees at a retail establishment in Opelika, Alabama regarding counterfeit travelers checks that had been passed at the store. Ellis and another individual used counterfeit travelers checks to purchase items at two separate stores, which led to their arrest.
After the arrest, numerous traveler’s checks, credit and debit cards, and pieces of personal identifying information were seized from the vehicle that Ellis had traveled in to Alabama. A subsequent investigation revealed that the personal information of over 400 individuals was used to file fraudulent federal income tax returns. In addition to 46 months’ imprisonment, Ellis was sentenced to a three-year term of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $ 1,672,971.
“Criminals are working hard every day to enrich themselves at the expense of hard working taxpayers,” stated U.S. Attorney Beck. “I applaud the efforts of all the agencies involved in this investigation, both federal and local, that identified the criminal activity of this individual and helped bring her to justice.”
“The United States Treasury is not a personal ATM with unlimited funds,” stated Special Agent in Charge Veronica F. Hyman-Pillot, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation. “As we begin filing season, IRS-CI will continue to use every resource available to eliminate refund fraud by identifying those involved in these schemes and bringing them to justice.”
"Identity theft is an ongoing problem which law enforcement combats on a daily basis”, stated Resident Agent in Charge Clayton Slay, U.S. Secret Service in Montgomery, Alabama. “In this particular scheme, which had ties to New York, New York, the stolen identities were used to obtain credit cards, pass counterfeit travelers checks and file fraudulent tax returns in numerous cities and communities in Alabama.” Slay continued by saying "This was a collaborative effort between the Opelika Police Department, the IRS Criminal Investigation Division and U.S. Secret Service in Montgomery. Hopefully the lengthy sentence handed down to Ellis will serve as a deterrent to others looking to commit these types of crimes in the Middle District of Alabama.”
The Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, United States Secret Service, and the Opelika and Auburn, Alabama, Police Departments investigated this case. Assistant United States Attorney Todd A. Brown prosecuted the case.