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Press Release

Four Plead Guilty To Filing Hundreds Of Fake Tax Returns

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Georgia

COLUMBUS — Four defendants pleaded guilty Tuesday to a scheme defrauding the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by using stolen identities to file tax returns and obtain refunds, said Charles “Charlie” Peeler, the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.  Erica D. Wise, 33, Ciourziae Weaver, 27, Linda Weaver, 52, and April Byrd, 40, all of Columbus, GA, entered guilty pleas to Conspiracy to Defraud the United States in the Collection of Income Taxes on January 22, 2019 before the Honorable Clay D. Land.  The crimes are punishable to a term of imprisonment of up to five (5) years, a fine of up to $250,000, or both, and up to three (3) years of supervised release.  Sentencing is scheduled for April 11, 2019 before Chief Judge Land.

According to the plea agreements, the defendants conspired together to file multiple fraudulent tax returns from March 2012 to September 2013 under the business Wise Tax, using the names and personal information of real taxpayers, unknown to those victims.  The defendants used four addresses around Columbus to accept mailed refunds, totaling 316 fraudulently filed refunds.  The defendants conspired together to deposit the tax refunds, and further shielded their illegal activity by using stolen identities as named income tax return preparers.  None of the preparers had any knowledge of, or involvement with, the scheme.

“This tax return scheme enacted in Columbus is vast, with several layers of fraud concocted to not only steal people’s identities but also defraud the government,” said Charles “Charlie” Peeler, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.  “With tax season in full swing, I want to remind would be criminals that our office will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those defrauding the government through tax schemes. I want to applaud the good work of the IRS in helping unravel this conspiracy.”

This case was investigated by the IRS and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mel Hyde.

Questions can be directed to Pamela Lightsey, Public Information Officer, United States Attorney’s Office, at (478) 621-2603 or Melissa Hodges, Public Affairs Director (Contractor), United States Attorney’s Office, at (478) 765-2362.

Updated January 22, 2019