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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of New York

Friday, May 22, 2015

Massena Woman Sentenced To 36 Months Jail In Identity Theft Tax Fraud Case

Involved false income tax returns of over $200,000

SYRACUSE, NEW YORK –United States Attorney Richard S. Hartunian and IRS Criminal Investigations, New York Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Shantelle P. Kitchen announced that Lacey Jane Hollinger, 27, of Massena, New York was sentenced on May 20, 2015 in connection with her convictions for mail fraud and aggravated identity theft. The case involved false federal income tax returns that resulted in the theft of over $200,000.00 from the IRS.

Hollinger was sentenced by United States District Court Judge David N. Hurd to serve twenty-four (24) months incarceration for aggravated identity theft and a consecutive term of one year and one day for mail fraud. She was also sentenced to serve three (3) years of supervised release following her release from prison and ordered to make restitution to the IRS in the amount of $212,317.00.

Lacey Hollinger was sentenced for her part of the fraud scheme, which took place in 2011 and 2012, when she contacted Massena area residents via Facebook and other electronic media to tell them they were eligible for a tax refund as part of a U.S. Government "stimulus program". No such program existed. Several dozen responded, providing personal identification information (date of birth, social security number, etc.). This information was then used to create fraudulent tax returns generating over $200,000.00 in tax refunds. Hollinger stole these funds after they were electronically deposited in bank accounts she controlled in Arizona.

Co-defendant, Elaine Monique Zavalas-Charres, is scheduled to be sentenced on June 10, 2015 for her role in the scheme.

"Tax fraud is a serious offense which we will continue to aggressively prosecute," said United States Attorney Richard S. Hartunian. "The use of the identities of innocent taxpayers to steal money from the government through the filing of fraudulent tax returns is on the increase. I urge people to take steps to protect themselves from these types of crimes."

How to reduce your risk

• Don’t routinely carry your Social Security card or any document with your SSN on it.

• Don’t give a business your SSN just because they ask – only when absolutely necessary.

• Protect your personal financial information at home and on your computer.

• Check your credit report annually. 

• Check your Social Security Administration earnings statement annually.

• Protect your personal computers by using firewalls, anti-spam/virus software, update security patches and change passwords for Internet accounts.

• Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or the Internet unless you have either initiated the contact or are sure you know who is asking.

The case was investigated by Special Agents of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations (Syracuse, New York Field Office), under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Shantelle P. Kitchen. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Richard Southwick.

Updated May 22, 2015