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Press Release

San Francisco Resident Sentenced To Seven Years In Prison For Stealing Prisoner Identities And Filing Fraudulent Tax Returns

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of California
Defendant Caused Losses of More than $600,000

SAN FRANCISCO – Howard Webber was sentenced yesterday to serve 84 months in prison for stealing identities and conspiring to file fraudulent 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 sentence follows a two-week trial before the Honorable Richard Seeborg, U.S. District Judge, at the conclusion of which a jury found Webber guilty of the criminal conduct.

On January 24, 2017, a jury found Webber, 52, of San Francisco, guilty of conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud, mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft.  According to the evidence presented at trial, from June 2010 through January 2012, Webber conspired with Clifford Bercovich to obtain the names and social security numbers of fellow inmates while Webber was incarcerated at several prisons and jails, including San Quentin State Prison, Santa Clara County jail, and the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The evidence demonstrated Webber and Bercovich convinced inmates to give them their names and social security numbers by explaining that they could help the inmates take advantage of government stimulus programs or secret tax loopholes.  Webber and Bercovich recruited inmates to help them 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 used the identities they obtained to file false federal income tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The returns falsely represented that the individuals earned wages or other income.  The returns also fraudulently claimed refunds.  Webber and Bercovich opened a post office box which they listed on each false return and used to receive the fraudulently obtained refund checks. In some cases, the defendants also directed that refunds be wired to bank accounts, which 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. 

In addition to the term of prison imposed, Judge Seeborg also ordered Webber to serve 3 years of supervised release.  A hearing has been scheduled for June 12, 2017, to determine restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.

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

Updated June 22, 2017

Identity Theft