A Pepper Pike woman was sentenced to seven years in prison for an identity-theft scheme in which she attempted to claim nearly $550,000 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, 46, was previously found guilty to one count of wire fraud, five counts of filing false claims for income tax refunds and five counts of aggravated identity theft. She was ordered to pay $357,119 in restitution.
"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.”
Johnson electronically filed 106 false, fictitious, and fraudulent tax returns for tax years 2010 and 2011 — in her own name and others’ — claiming a nearly $550,000 in tax refunds. Johnson requested that these false income tax refunds be paid by direct deposit to prepaid debit cards, according to court documents.
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 court documents.
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. She 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 court documents.
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.