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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 22, 2018

Tampa Man Sentenced For Conspiracy To Commit Theft Of Government Property And Aggravated Identity Theft

Tampa, FL – Chief U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday today sentenced Rico Simmons (42, Tampa) to seven years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit theft of government property, access device fraud, and aggravated identity theft. As part of his sentence, the court also ordered him to pay $156,100.12 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service, and entered a separate money judgment against him in the same amount.

Simmons pleaded guilty on December 20, 2017.

According to court documents, beginning in August 2012, Simmons and his co-defendants, Natalie Panko (a/k/a Rene Brown) and Mazie Hill, conspired among themselves, and with others, to extract tax fraud proceeds from debit cards using  Panko and Hill’s restaurant businesses – Ladies of the Sea and Mazie’s Soulfood. The conspirators used stolen identities to file false tax returns and activated debit cards and bank accounts that then received the fraudulently claimed tax refunds. Panko and Hill made the debit card charges appear as restaurant-related transactions. Simmons, Panko, and Hill then shared in the proceeds of the fraud.

Panko pleaded guilty earlier this year and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 11, 2018. Hill also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years in federal prison.

This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Megan Kistler and Simon Gaugush.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Tax
Component(s): 
Updated March 22, 2018