Conspirator In Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Conspiracy Involving More Than 150 Victims Is Sentenced To Nearly Five Years In Federal Prison
DALLAS — At a sentencing hearing held this morning before Chief U.S. District Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater, Selemani Hakizimana was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison and ordered to pay approximately $362,000 in restitution, following his guilty plea in February 2014 to one count of conspiracy to commit theft of public money, announced U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.
Hakizimana has been in custody since his arrest in August 2013 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, according to information presented when he made his initial appearance in federal court in the Northern District of Georgia. Hakizimana’s indicted co-conspirator, Dizzy Kisonga, remains a fugitive.
According to the factual resume filed in the case, Hakizimana and Kisonga made an agreement to steal, and convert for their own use, income tax refunds by submitting fraudulent tax returns. In fact, according to information presented at today’s sentencing hearing, the scheme involved 154 victims.
The investigation began in March 2012 when Kisonga attempted to deposit five Refundo, Rush Tax Inc. checks at an Irving, Texas branch of Bank of America, according to the factual resume. Refundo, however, had placed a stop payment on each of the checks. Believing the checks were forged, bank officials notified the Irving Police Department.
An Irving Police Department officer arrived at the bank and met with Kisonga, who claimed to have prepared tax returns for the people named on the refund checks. Kisonga advised, according to the factual resume, that he had loaned the customers money while their tax returns were processed, and once the refunds were issued, the customers endorsed the checks and gave them to Kisonga. After depositing the refund checks, Kisonga advised he planned to give the customers the leftover funds, minus their initial loan amount.
Kisonga, according to the factual resume, admitted to having additional refund checks in his car. The officer determined that each of the seven checks located in the vehicle was already endorsed and made payable to a different person. The officer also found and seized a handwritten note from the car that contained the names of the five individuals listed on the Refundo tax return checks, and next to each name were the last four digits of the individual’s social security number.
Law enforcement executed a search at Kisonga’s house in April 2012 and learned that the five Refundo checks and the other checks found by the Irving Police Department belonged to an acquaintance named Selemani Hakizimana. According to Kisonga, Hakizimana game him the refund checks, already endorsed, while at a nightclub in Addison, Texas. According to their agreement, Kisonga kept a percentage of the checks’ value and gave the remainder to Hakizimana.
Forensic evidence established, according to the factual resume, that Hakizimana and Kisonga communicated via text messaging. These texts contained personal identifying information of several individuals as well as messages from Hakizimana instructing Kisonga to wire transfer money to domestic and foreign bank accounts. A review of Kisonga’s bank statements revealed that in 2012, he sent $275,000 in wire transfers to Hakizimana’s bank account.
Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation and the Irving Police Department investigated. Assistant U.S Attorney Aaron Wiley prosecuted.