Three individuals sentenced for roles in fraud and identity theft ring that stole over $6 million in government funds
ATLANTA - Raphael Menard and Leshanda Hunte have been sentenced to federal prison for running a tax refund scheme using the stolen identities of disabled and elderly taxpayers and causing more than a $250,000 loss to the government.
“Menard and Hunte preyed on elderly and disabled citizens who were the most vulnerable and the least likely to report the defendants’ crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “As those who perpetrate these types of crimes become more creative, citizens must closely monitor their own personal information to avoid becoming another victim of their schemes.”
“The defendants purposefully targeted our more vulnerable citizens and used that to their advantage in perpetrating the fraud scheme,” said Thomas J. Holloman, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation. “The defendants’ lack of compassion and disregard for this segment of the citizenry continues to drive our commitment to investigating these matters as we partner with the United States Attorney’s Office in the reduction of identity theft crimes in the area.”
According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges and other information presented in court: Starting in 2011, Menard and Hunte ran a fraud scheme that involved filing fraudulent federal income tax returns in the names of other people. This scheme netted over $250,000 for the defendants. Menard and Hunte targeted disabled and elderly victims who did not file income tax returns and would not report the theft of their identities to the IRS. Some of the tax returns were filed using the identities of people who had recently died.
Menard and Hunte shared responsibility for perpetrating their illegal scheme and used the ill-gotten proceeds to finance a lavish personal lifestyle, including travel and large retail purchases. The scheme unraveled after employees at Chase Bank noticed the suspicious deposits and froze the couple’s joint accounts. This led Hunte to go to the bank and demand the release of the stolen money, telling bank employees that she was a tax preparer and the refunds belonged to her clients. In reality, none of the victims knew Hunte or Menard, and the defendants were not registered tax preparers.
On October 31, 2012, Hunte brought a relative to the bank who presented fake identification in the name of one of Hunte’s victims, causing the bank to release over $8,500 in cash to Hunte. Two days later, Menard attempted to pull off the same scheme, but was arrested after bank employees spotted the fake identification. Menard’s arrest led to the seizure of the money that remained in the defendants’ bank accounts and launched an IRS investigation that uncovered the extent of their scheme.
Raphael Menard, 33, of Marietta, Georgia has been sentenced to three years, 10 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. Menard pleaded guilty to conspiracy and theft of government money on January 10, 2018.
Leshanda Hunte, 34, of Marietta, Georgia has been sentenced to two years, six months in prison to be followed by two years of supervised release. Hunte was found guilty of conspiracy and theft of government money by a jury on February 16, 2018.
Menard and Hunte were ordered to pay restitution to the government in the amount of $206,564.04.
This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Trevor Wilmot and Samir Kaushal prosecuted the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.