You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, January 27, 2015

13 Bay Area Defendants Charged In Four Separate Tax Fraud Schemes

SAN FRANCISCO – The grand jury returned indictments charging 13 people in connection with four separate tax fraud schemes, announced United States Attorney Melinda Haag and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Special Agent in Charge José M. Martinez.
 
On January 6, 2015, San Francisco residents Josiah Larkin, 38, Monica Cobbins, 47, Krishell Robinson, 25, Thomalyn Virden, 51, and Ursula Choice, 28, were charged in a 32 count indictment with conspiracy to file false claims and filing false claims.  According to the indictment, Larkin owned and operated a tax preparation business in San Francisco that he called Colbert Ball Tax Service. “Colbert/Ball Tax Service” is a national income tax preparation service with over 283 locations. The indictment alleges that Larkin did not have a franchise or other licensing arrangement with Colbert/Ball and used its name without authority from the company. Cobbins, Robinson, Virden, and Choice were hired by Larkin and prepared tax returns for his Colbert Ball Tax Service. Between November 2012 and August 2013, the defendants filed with the IRS, or assisted in filing, federal income tax returns falsely claiming that education expenses had been paid and the taxpayers were therefore eligible for the American Opportunity Tax Credit and a corresponding tax refund. Larkin directed that the tax refunds be paid in a manner that allowed him to control the refunds and collect his fee, which was approximately half the refund.
 
Cobbins made her initial appearance in federal court in San Francisco on January 21, 2015, and was released on bail set at $20,000. Larkin, Choice, and Robinson made their initial appearance in federal court in San Francisco on January 22, 2015. Larkin was released on bail set at $200,000. Choice and Robinson were released on bail set at $50,000. These defendants appeared before the Honorable Jacqueline Scott Corley, U.S. Magistrate Court Judge.  Virden made her initial appearance in federal court in San Francisco on January 26, 2015, before the Honorable Joseph Spero, U.S. Magistrate Court Judge. The next scheduled appearance for Larkin, Cobbins, Choice, Robinson, and Virden is a status conference set at 2:30 on January 30, 2015, before the Honorable Susan Illston, U.S. District Court Judge. 
 
On January 8, 2015, Jamillah Thompson, 23, of Antioch, was charged in a four count indictment with conspiracy to file false claims and wire fraud, unrelated to the conspiracy alleged in the indictment of Cobbins, Robinson, Virden, and Choice. According to the indictment charging Thompson, between January 2010 and February 2012, Thompson and others filed or helped file false claims with the IRS requesting refunds in the names of others. The indictment alleges that, as part of the scheme, Thompson procured the names and identities of taxpayers through illegal means or by agreement with participants in the scheme. The tax returns were electronically filed and included fictitious Forms W-2 to support the wages reported on the false tax returns filed. 
 
Thompson was arrested in Antioch on January 21, 2015, and made her initial appearance in federal court the same day.  Thompson was released on a $50,000 unsecured bond.  Thompson appeared before the Honorable Kandis A. Westmore, U.S. Magistrate Court Judge in Oakland. Her next scheduled appearance is set for January 29, 2015. 
 
On January 8, 2015, Kenneth Brown, 49, of Oakland, and Kenya Brown, 30, of Dublin, were charged in a nine count indictment with conspiracy to file false claims, wire fraud, theft of public money, and aggravated identity theft.  Between April 2009 and June 2011, the defendants filed or help file false claims with the IRS requesting refunds in the names of others. The indictment alleges that the defendants electronically filed with the IRS or assisted in filing with the IRS false federal income tax returns using personal information obtained by illegal means. The returns falsely claimed that the people listed on the returns earned wages in amounts specified on a fictitious Form W-2 that was filed with the tax return. The defendants forged the purported filers’ electronic signature on the filed tax returns.     

Kenneth Brown was arrested in Oakland on January 21, 2015, and made his initial appearance in federal court the same day before Judge Westmore in Oakland. He was released on a $100,000 unsecured bond and is set to appear next at a status conference on January 30, 2015, before the Honorable Jon S. Tigar, U.S. District Court Judge. Kenya Brown has not made her initial appearance in federal court. 
 
On January 15, 2015, Cassandra Tompkins, of Oakland, Cordia Spearman, of Vacaville, Damien Mitchell, of El Sobrante, and Tanya Keith,  of Oakland, were charged in a 13 count indictment with conspiracy to file false claims.  Tompkins was also charged with theft of government property, filing false claims, and aggravated identity theft. Keith was also charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.  Mitchell was also charged with theft of government property and aggravated identity theft. The indictment alleges that between January 15, 2011, and May 15, 2012, these defendants conspired to defraud the IRS by obtaining and aiding to obtain the payment of false claims. According to the indictment, as part of the scheme, the defendants filed or helped others file false federal income tax returns with the IRS requesting refunds. These federal income tax returns falsely reported that taxpayers earned wages in amounts specified on fictitious Forms W-2 filed with each return. The false income tax returns reported that taxes had been withheld by employers and falsely claimed refunds from the IRS. 
 
Tompkins and Spearman made their initial appearances in federal court in Oakland on January 20, 2015, and were released on bail set at $50,000. Mitchell made her initial appearance in federal court in Oakland on January 21, 2015, and was released on bail set at $50,000. The defendants all appeared before Judge Westmore. Keith has not made her initial appearance in federal court. The next scheduled appearance for Tompkins, Spearman, and Mitchell is on March 20, 2015, before the Honorable James Donato, U.S. District Court Judge. 
 
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  The maximum sentence for conspiracy to file false claims, in violation of 18 U.S.C § 286, is 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The maximum penalty for each count of false claims, in violation of a Title 18, U.S.C § 287, is five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The maximum penalty for theft of public money, in violation of Title 18, U.S.C § 641, is 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.  The maximum penalty for wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, U.S.C § 1343, is 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.  The maximum penalty for each count of identity fraud, in violation of a Title 18, U.S.C § 1028A, is two years in prison, consecutive to the underlying felony and a fine of $250,000.  However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553. 
 
Thomas Newman and Cynthia Stier are the Assistant U.S. Attorneys who are prosecuting these cases.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation.

Updated January 28, 2015