Investigation Of A Tax Refund Scheme Results In Plea
Charles E. Peeler, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, announces that Tony Cherenfant. age 34, of Miami, Florida, entered a plea of guilty April 4, 2018 to conspiracy to steal government funds based on a fraudulent tax refund scheme seeking more than $1.2 million in refunds. Mr. Cherenfant entered his plea in Valdosta before Senior District Court Judge Hugh Lawson.
Facts stipulated in the plea agreement show that Mr. Cherenfant was stopped, while travelling with two other individuals, on Interstate 75 in Valdosta by a Camden County Sheriff’s Office deputy working patrol with the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office. Additional Lowndes County deputies arrived and conducted a probable cause search of the vehicle. During the search of the vehicle, deputies found the personal identifying information of approximately 1500 individuals and tax refund documents, both in written and electronic form in notes, notebooks, a computer and a cell phone. The identifying information included the names, dates of birth and social security numbers of the individuals.
The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office investigator contacted the IRS-Criminal Investigations, which identified a fraudulent tax scheme involving the identity information. In entering the plea, Mr. Cherenfant admitted to possessing the identities and that he was involved in a conspiracy which resulted in the filing of approximately 400 fraudulent federal tax returns with the IRS for tax year 2012 claiming refunds of $1,285,729. Actual refunds paid on those claims filed without the knowledge or permission of the taxpayers whose identities were used, totaled $582,751.
United States Attorney Charles E. Peeler stated, “This investigation represents a shining example of the positive results of local and federal law enforcement partnering to bring to justice someone preying on both individuals and society. This crime affected not only those whose identities were stolen, but all American taxpayers who are ultimately victimized by this form of theft. The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to supporting this kind of teamwork by aggressively prosecuting those who commit identity theft and tax fraud to line their own pockets.”
“Each of these identity theft investigations are unique, and criminals are inventing new ways to commit fraud,” said Thomas J. Holloman, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation. “Especially during filing season, taxpayers need to safeguard tax information and make sure that it doesn’t get into the wrong hands.” Go to IRS.GOV and click on 2018 Dirty Dozen for more on tax schemes.
Mr. Cherenfant faces up to five years in prison and restitution to the United States of the stolen funds.
The case was investigated by the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations. Assistant United States Attorney Robert D. McCullers is prosecuting the case for the United States.
Questions concerning this case should be directed to Pamela Lightsey, Public Information Officer, United States Attorney’s Office, at (478) 621-2603.