Phenix City Resident Convicted in Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Schemes that Sought $26 Million
Stole IDs of Soldiers Deployed in Afghanistan, Alabama Teenagers and State Prisoners
Montgomery, Alabama –A Phenix City, Alabama resident was convicted Thursday by a federal jury for his part in two stolen identity refund fraud schemes, announced U.S. Attorney Louis V. Franklin, Sr. for the Middle District of Alabama and Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.
William Anthony Gosha III, a/k/a Boo Boo, was convicted of one count of conspiracy, 22 counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, and 25 counts of aggravated identity theft.
According to the evidence presented at trial, between November 2010 and December 2013, Gosha ran a large-scale identity theft ring with his co-conspirators, Tracy Mitchell, Keshia Lanier, and Tamika Floyd, who were all previously convicted and sentenced to prison. Together they filed over 8,800 tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that sought more than $22 million in fraudulent refunds of which the IRS paid out approximately $9 million.
In November 2010, Gosha stole IDs of inmates from the Alabama Department of Corrections and provided the IDs to Lanier who used the information to seek fraudulent tax refunds. Gosha and Lanier agreed to split the proceeds. Gosha also stole employee records from a company previously located in Columbus, Georgia. In 2012, Lanier needed an additional source of stolen IDs and approached Floyd, who worked at two Alabama state agencies in Opelika, Alabama: the Department of Public Health and the Department of Human Resources. In both positions, Floyd had access to the personal identifying information of individuals, including teenagers. Lanier requested that Floyd primarily provide her with identities that belonged to sixteen and seventeen year-olds. Floyd agreed and provided thousands of names to Lanier and others at Lanier’s direction.
After receiving the additional stolen IDs, Gosha recruited Mitchell and her family to help file the fraudulent returns. Mitchell worked at a hospital located at Fort Benning, Georgia, where she had access to the personal identification information of military personnel, including soldiers who were deployed to Afghanistan. She stole soldiers’ IDs and used their information to file fraudulent returns.
In order to electronically file the fraudulent returns, Gosha, Lanier, and their co-conspirators applied for several Electronic Filing Identification Numbers (EFIN) with the IRS in the names of sham tax preparation businesses. Gosha, Lanier, and their co-conspirators then used these EFINs to file the returns and obtain tax refund related bank products from various financial institutions, which provided them with blank check stock. Gosha and his co-conspirators initially printed out the fraudulently obtained refund checks using the blank check stock.
However, the financial institutions halted Gosha’s and his co-conspirators’ ability to print checks, and as a result they recruited U.S. Postal employees who provided Gosha and others with addresses on their routes to which the fraudulent refund checks could be mailed. In exchange for cash, these postal employees collected the refund checks and provided them to Gosha, Lanier, Mitchell and others. Gosha also directed tax refunds to prepaid debit cards and had them sent to addresses he controlled. Gosha used the prepaid cards to withdraw the refunds.
In addition, between January 2010 and December 2013, Gosha participated in a separate stolen identity refund fraud scheme with Pamela Smith and others, in which Gosha sold the IDs that he had stolen from the Alabama Department of Corrections to Smith and others. Smith and others used the IDs to file returns that sought approximately $4.8 million in fraudulent refunds of which the IRS paid out approximately $1.85 million. Smith was previously convicted and sentenced to prison.
Chief U.S. District Court Judge Watkins did not set a date for sentencing. Gosha faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the conspiracy to file false claims, a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for each count of wire and mail fraud and a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison for the aggravated identity theft. The defendant also faces a period of supervised release, restitution, forfeiture and monetary penalties. He was remanded into custody.
U.S. Attorney Franklin and Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg commended special agents of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, who conducted the investigation, and Trial Attorneys Michael C. Boteler and Gregory P. Bailey of the Tax Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Ross of the Middle District of Alabama, who are prosecuting the case.