Four Charged in Tax Refund Fraud and Identity Theft Scheme
PANAMA CITY, FLORIDA – A federal grand jury indictment, unsealed today, charges Jermaine Winters, 38 of Coleman, Florida, Senora Cotton, 24 of Chipley, Florida, Rosetta Presley, 22 of Chipley, Florida, and Fontella Keith, 47 of Chipley, Florida, with conspiracy, wire fraud and identity theft in connection with the electronic filing of false federal income tax returns. The indictment was announced today by Pamela C. Marsh, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida.
The indictment alleges that, between July 2011 and July 2012, the defendants used the stolen identities of assisted-living facility residents, clinical laboratory patients, and others, in an attempt to steal more than $118,000 from the United States Treasury, through the electronic filing of fraudulent tax returns.
Keith is alleged to have stolen the personal identifying information of patients at the Dogwood Inn, an assisted-living facility in Bonifay, Florida, where Keith worked. The indictment alleges that Keith gave this information to Winters, Cotton, and Presley, who then filed the fraudulent tax returns. The defendants also are alleged to have used the personal identifying information of patients from Sun Laboratory Services, a clinical laboratory in the Tampa, Florida area, to file additional fraudulent tax returns. The defendants allegedly caused the United States Treasury to pay fraudulent income tax refunds by loading refunds onto prepaid debit cards mailed by various financial institutions to addresses in the Northern District of Florida.
The arraignment for Cotton and Keith is scheduled for Monday, February 23, 2015, at 1:30 p.m. before Magistrate Judge Larry A. Bodiford at the United States Courthouse, 30 West Government Street, Panama City, Florida. The arraignment has not been scheduled for Winters or Presley.
The indictment results from an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Chipley Police Department, and the Leon County Sheriff’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Gayle Littleton.
An indictment is merely an allegation by a grand jury that a defendant has committed a violation of federal criminal law and is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Florida is one of 94 offices that serve as the nation’s principal litigators under the direction of the Attorney General. The office strives to protect and serve the citizens of the Northern District of Florida through the ethical, vigorous, and impartial enforcement of the laws of the United States, to defend the national security, to improve the safety and quality of life in our communities through the protection of civil rights, and to protect the public funds and financial assets of the United States. To access public court documents online, please visit the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida website. For more information about the United States Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Florida, visit http://www.justice.gov/usao/fln/index.html.