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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Three Plead Guilty to Misuse of Social Security Numbers and Other Charges as Part of Scheme to Obtain Tax Information

Stephen Mockler Impersonated Taxpayers to the IRS Using Personal Identifying Information Provided to Him by Andrew Panessa and Sabrina Scott

SYRACUSE, NEW YORK – Stephen Mockler, age 53, of Waverly, New York, Andrew Panessa, age 40, of Lake Ariel, Pennsylvania, and Sabrina Scott, age 52, of Granbury, Texas, pled guilty to charges related to their roles in a scheme to obtain confidential tax information from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The announcement was made by Acting United States Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon and Special Agent in Charge William Kalb of the United States Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (“TIGTA”).

As part of their guilty pleas, Mockler, Panessa, and Scott admitted that Scott, while an employee of a private investigation firm in Texas, provided both Mockler and Panessa with personal identifying information about her firm’s investigative targets (including the targets’ social security numbers) and requested that Mockler and Panessa use that information to obtain confidential tax information. Mockler, who received requests for tax information from both Scott and Panessa, called the IRS and used the personal identifying information provided to him by Scott or Panessa to impersonate the taxpayer, answer the IRS’s security questions, and learn non-public information about the taxpayer. Mockler then sent that confidential tax information back to Panessa or Scott, who provided the information to the private investigation firm’s clients for a fee.

Mockler and Panessa each pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, misuse of a social number, and aggravated identity theft. Each faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years for each count of wire fraud and five years for each count of misuse of a social security number. The aggravated identify theft convictions require a two-year sentence to run consecutively to any term of imprisonment imposed for the wire fraud and misuse of a social security number counts. In addition, the maximum fine is $250,000, and the court could impose a term of post-imprisonment supervised release of up to three years.

Sabrina Scott pled guilty to conspiracy to misuse social security numbers and faces a maximum sentence of five years, a fine of $250,000, and a post-imprisonment term of supervised release of up to three years.

No sentencing date is currently set for Mockler or Panessa. Scott’s sentencing is scheduled for October 5, 2021. A defendant’s sentence is imposed by a judge based on the particular statute the defendant is charged with violating, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, and other factors.

These cases were investigated by the United States Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (“TIGTA”) and are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael D. Gadarian and Geoffrey J.L. Brown.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Tax
Updated June 2, 2021