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Press Release

Pepper Pike Woman Indicted for $476,000 ID Theft and Tax Fraud Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Ohio

A Pepper Pike woman was indicted for an identity-theft scheme in which she attempted to claim $476,000 in fraudulent tax refunds, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio and Kathy A. Enstrom, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office.

Ghana Johnson, 45, was indicted on one count of wire fraud, five counts of filing false claims for income tax refunds and five counts of aggravated identity theft.

"This defendant stole identities from unsuspecting people and then tried to get rich off of taxpayers," Dettelbach said.

“Investigating refund fraud and identity theft is a priority for IRS Criminal Investigation,” Enstrom said.  “Stealing identities and filing false tax returns is a serious crime that hurts innocent taxpayers.”

She electronically filed 106 false, fictitious, and fraudulent tax returns for tax years 2010 and 2011 — in her own name and others’ — claiming a total of $476,503 in tax refunds.  Johnson requested that these false income tax refunds be paid by direct deposit to prepaid debit cards, according to the indictment.

Johnson used stolen means of identification, including names and Social Security numbers, to execute her scheme.  She obtained these means of identification in a variety of ways, including from stolen admission records from a medical and dental assistant school in Cleveland, according to the indictment.

Johnson held herself out to be an income tax preparer to family, friends, and others; even though Johnson did not list herself as an income tax preparer on any of the fraudulent income tax returns she filed in the names of others, according to the indictment.

Johnson falsified wage income, federal income tax withholdings, dependents, exemptions, and tax credit information in order to obtain income tax refunds for which neither Johnson nor the individuals she prepared the income tax returns for were entitled to receive.  Many of the fraudulent income tax returns filed by Johnson shared common characteristics, including addresses, employers, wages, federal income tax withholdings, and tax credits, according to the indictment.

The Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Unit, in Cleveland, Ohio conducted the investigation.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Miranda E. Dugi.

If convicted, the defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record, if any, the defendant’s role in the offense, and the characteristics of the violation.  In all cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases it will be less than the maximum.

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt.  A defendant is entitled to a fair trial, in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated March 18, 2015