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Press Release

Former Marin County Resident Convicted For Using Prisoner Identities And Filing Fraudulent Tax Returns

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of California

SAN FRANCISCO – Howard Webber, a former resident of Marin County, Calif., was convicted today by a federal jury for conspiring to use identities of others and file fraudulent income tax returns, announced U.S. Attorney Brian J. Stretch and Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.  The verdict follows a two-week trial before the Honorable Richard Seeborg, U.S. District Judge.

According to the evidence presented at trial, from June 2010 through January 2012, Webber, 52, conspired with Clifford Bercovich, 69, of San Rafael, Calif., to obtain the names and social security numbers of fellow inmates while Webber was incarcerated at various prisons and jails, including San Quentin State Prison and Santa Clara County jail in California, and the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Webber convinced inmates to give their names and social security numbers by explaining that they could help inmates take advantage of government programs.  Webber recruited certain inmates to help solicit the identities of other inmates, and created a limited-liability company, Inmate Assets Recovery and Liquidation Services LLC, to make their scheme appear legitimate. Webber and Bercovich then used these identities to file false federal income tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The returns falsely represented that the inmates earned wages or other income and fraudulently claimed refunds.  Webber and Bercovich opened a post office box, which they listed as the taxpayer address on each false return and used it to receive the fraudulently obtained refund checks. In some cases, they also directed that the refunds be wired to bank accounts that they opened and controlled.  According to the evidence presented at trial, Webber and Bercovich filed more than 700 false returns and received over $600,000 in fraudulently obtained income tax refunds.

“Today’s guilty verdict brings a just end to Mr. Webber’s scheme to defraud the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Stretch.  “This office will continue to devote its resources to ensure that those who enrich themselves by using the identities of others and filing false tax returns are apprehended and prosecuted.”

“As the IRS filing season begins this week, today’s conviction sends a clear message to those contemplating stealing identities and using the information to obtain fraudulent refunds – plan on getting caught and facing significant jail time,” said Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg.

“We want everyone who files a tax return to take advantage of the deductions and credits to which they are entitled by law,” said Tyrone W. Blanchette, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Assistant Special Agent in Charge.  “However, no one is entitled to defraud the United States and the American Taxpayers.  Today’s guilty verdict should send a clear message that those involved in these types of schemes will be held accountable for their crimes.”

Webber is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Seeborg on May 16, 2017.  Webber faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.  Further, Webber faces a mandatory minimum of two years in prison for aggravated identity theft.  An additional period of supervised release, restitution, and monetary penalties also may be imposed; 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.  Bercovich pleaded guilty in December 2016 to conspiracy, mail fraud and aggravated identity theft. He is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Seeborg on April 11, 2017. 

Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg and U.S. Attorney Stretch thanked special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, who conducted the investigation, and Assistant U.S. Attorney William Frentzen and Trial Attorneys Gregory Bernstein and Arthur J. Ewenczyk of the Tax Division, who are prosecuting the case.

Updated January 27, 2017

Identity Theft