Oakland Bus Driver Pleads Guilty In Tax Fraud Scheme
OAKLAND – Akysha Rockwell pleaded guilty in federal court today for her role in a false tax refund scheme, announced U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Special Agent in Charge José M. Martinez.
In pleading guilty, Rockwell admitted that, during late 2011 and early 2012, Rockwell’s boyfriend at the time taught her how to prepare and electronically file fraudulent income tax returns, targeting people at their church and drug-rehabilitation clinics with the promise of an “Obama Stimulus,” a non-existent government program fabricated to attract clients.
As part of their scheme, Rockwell and her former boyfriend prepared tax returns that claimed false income and false occupations, regardless of the information that was provided to them by their clients. Rockwell’s former boyfriend acquired an identification information form (ID-Doc), to obtain the means of identification of actual persons to prepare and electronically file false federal individual income tax returns, claiming fraudulent tax credits and fraudulent tax refunds. Together, Rockwell and her former boyfriend prepared 116 tax returns in 2012, 54 claimed exactly $6,500 in income, a number they chose to maximize the refund amounts. All the tax returns claimed one of the following sources of “Household Employee” income: babysitter, caretaker, cleaning person, domestic worker, housekeeper, maid, and yard-worker. The clients thought they were applying for payments from an Obama stimulus program, they did not know that Rockwell and her former boyfriend were filing false tax returns in their names.
Even though a majority of the clients were unemployed or disabled with no income, Rockwell filed income tax returns reporting false earned income and false refundable educational credits. Rockwell received a portion of the false tax refunds and spent it on personal items such as clothing, hotels, rental cards and illegal drugs.
After ending their relationship, Rockwell continued to file false tax returns from her residence in Oakland. She used the same fake “Obama Stimulus” program to attract victims. She obtained at least $58,131 by filing false and fraudulent tax refund claims.
Rockwell, 39, a bus driver for a private transportation company in Oakland, was indicted by a federal grand jury on Mar. 13, 2014 and charged with conspiracy to file false claims and two counts of false claims. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy to file a false claim and to filing false claims.
The maximum penalty for each count of conspiracy to file false claims, in violation of a Title 18, U.S.C § 286, is 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the intended gain or loss, whichever is greater. 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, or twice the intended gain or loss, whichever is greater. However, any sentence will 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.
Rockwell’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 1, 2015, at 9:30 a.m. before The Honorable Jon Tigar, U.S. District Court Judge, in Oakland.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Colin Sampson is prosecuting the case. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation.