Skip to main content
Press Release

U.S. Attorney, IRS Warn Taxpayers To Be On The Lookout For Fraud And Remain Tax Compliant

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Georgia
Approximately 22 Defendants Sentenced For Tax Fraud Since Last Filing Season

MACON –  As many people scramble to file their individual taxes prior to Monday’s deadline, federal officials are warning people to be on the lookout for tax scams, carefully protect their personal information from theft, and comply with federal tax laws to avoid penalties, criminal prosecution and even jail time. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation are actively investigating tax fraud cases in Middle and South Georgia, and are holding criminals accountable for identity theft and tax fraud.

“Tax cheats are becoming more sophisticated in their schemes and are finding new ways to swindle the system and even access unsuspecting victims’ personal and tax information for nefarious purposes,” said Charles “Charlie” Peeler, the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. “Our Office is working closely with our law enforcement partners at the IRS and local agencies to stop this criminal activity that has far-reaching consequences for both individual victims and our country.”

“We have IRS Special Agents located here in Georgia working around the clock to uncover, stop and work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in prosecuting tax crimes. With the filing season coming to an end, it’s important that the public be aware of various tax schemes and report the scheme to either the IRS or their local police department,” said Thomas J. Holloman, Special Agent in Charge of IRS-CI, Atlanta Field Office.

Since last tax season, approximately twenty-two defendants have been sentenced for fraudulent tax schemes beginning in May 2018 in the Middle District of Georgia. Here are two recent examples of tax fraud cases prosecuted in the Middle District of Georgia during 2018:

1. Portia Powell of Columbus, GA, was sentenced in November 2018 to 18 months in federal prison, three years supervised release plus $159,000 restitution to the IRS in a stolen identity tax refund scheme. Between August and October 2013, Powell received approximately 71 stolen U.S. Treasury checks written to various taxpayers. These treasury checks were taxpayer refunds for the 2012 tax year totaling $159,000. The victims were all either students, disabled or unemployed.

2. Belinda Harris, Cynthia Clarkston and Susie Sherman Hall, all of Valdosta, GA, were involved in a tax fraud scheme. In 2018, Ms. Harris and Ms. Hall were each sentenced to 57 months in federal prison, and Ms. Clarkston was sentenced to 24 months imprisonment. All of the defendants were ordered to pay $258,914 to the IRS in restitution. The three defendants admitted to filing numerous fraudulent tax returns using stolen personal information, including 100 names obtained from an individual employed at Valdosta State University. IRS investigators determined 222 fraudulent federal income tax returns, filed for the 2010 and 2011 years, were directly linked to the conspiracy, claiming refunds totaling $670,860.00. Actual refunds of $258,914.00 were issued on those fraudulent returns. A number of victims said that the federal income tax returns filed in their names were completely false and that they did not authorize anyone to file or accept a tax refund in their names.

To learn more, visit for information about the “Dirty Dozen” for the 2019 filing season. The deadline for taxpayers to file their income taxes is Monday, April 15, 2018 at midnight.

For in person interview requests or questions, please contact the Atlanta Field Office IRS-Criminal Investigation Public Information Officer at Additional 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 April 12, 2019

Community Outreach
Identity Theft