Federal Judge Sentences Three Women To Prison For Tax Fraud
BIRMINGHAM -- A federal judge on Monday sentenced three members of a Birmingham-area tax-fraud ring to years in prison for filing false tax returns in other people's names, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division Special Agent in Charge Veronica Hyman-Pillot.
Chief U.S. District Judge Karon O. Bowdre sentenced LATOSHIA SHEVELL HOLLIS, 39, to eight years and four months in prison; ANGELA GERNIAL BENNETT, 52, to five years and three months in prison; and KENNETHEA LASHELLE PARKS, 33, to two years in prison. The three Birmingham women all pleaded guilty last year to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government by filing false income tax returns. Together, they must pay $234,202 in restitution to the government.
During the sentencing hearings, the judge noted that it had become a popular "get rich quick scheme" in some criminal quarters to file fake tax returns in order to get the IRS to unwittingly send refund money to the criminals.
The group in which Hollis, Bennett and Parks participated sought nearly $900,000 in stolen tax-refund money over two years, and successfully received about $234,000. The conspiracy gathered personally identifying information on other people and used it to file false federal income tax returns in the names of at least 30 individuals for the 2008 tax year and at least 118 individuals for the 2009 tax year.
Hollis and Parks had extensive criminal histories, the judge noted, and said it is "time the community realizes that these crimes do not pay in the long run."
"People who engage in tax fraud steal from each of us who pay our taxes as required," Vance said. "Monday's sentences punish these criminals for their fraud and theft and send the message to others who might think about participating in similar misdeeds that prison is the price they could pay," Vance said.
"Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation continues to make identity theft and refund fraud a top priority," Hyman-Pillot said. "Angela Bennett, Latoshia Hollis and Kennethea Parks stole from the United States Treasury and had no regard for the victims of their schemes. Our agency has a zero-tolerance policy for this type of criminal behavior," she said. "Monday's sentencing comes on the brink of tax-filing season, and I hope it serves as a warning to those who are considering similar criminal activities."
IRS-CID investigated the case, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa K. Atwood prosecuted.