Antioch Resident Pleads Guilty To Aggravated Identity Theft In Tax Fraud Scheme
OAKLAND – Starkisha Benson pleaded guilty on October 3, 2014, to conspiring to file false claims and aggravated identity theft, United States Attorney Melinda Haag and IRS-CI Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division Special Agent in Charge José M. Martinez, announced.
According to her plea agreement, Benson filed false tax returns from her residence and from various locations along with her co-conspirators and without the permission of the person listed on the tax return. Benson admitted to creating fake W-2 forms that were used to inflate income and corresponding credits in order to receive fraudulent income tax refunds. Benson also admitted to stealing another person’s identity and using that information to file a false 2009 and 2010 tax returns. Benson further admitted to misusing the identity of that same person’s minor child. Benson acknowledged embezzling these tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service and keeping the money for her own use on debit cards that she possessed.
Benson, 35, of Antioch, was charged with Khyber Law and Jessika Green in a twenty-four count superseding indictment on Dec. 17, 2013. The defendants were charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to file false claims, filing false claims, effecting fraudulent transactions with an access device, theft of public money, and aggravated identity theft. Law and Green each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to file false claims.
Law, 26, and Green, 33, of Antioch, are scheduled to be sentenced before the Honorable Jon S. Tigar, United States District Court Judge, on Dec. 5, 2014, in Oakland.
Benson is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 9, 2015. Based on her plea of guilty, Benson faces a mandatory minimum 2-year sentence related to the aggravated identity theft conviction.
The maximum statutory penalty for each count of conspiracy to file false claim, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 286, is ten years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The maximum penalty for aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, U.S.C. § 1028A, is a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years in prison, and a fine of $250,000 plus restitution. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Newman is prosecuting the case. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Berkeley Police Department and the IRS, Criminal Investigation Division.