“Sovereign Citizen” Sentenced to 10 Years in Federal Prison for Fraud Scheme
Columbia, South Carolina - United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Ronald Allen Wright, age 53, of Columbia, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison after a jury found him guilty of tax fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. His convictions stem from the false and meritless “sovereign citizen” ideology, whereby individuals argue that they are not subject to the laws of the United States of America and that debts can be discharged by accessing secret government bank accounts.
According to information presented during his trial and sentencing, Wright was the owner of “Money Solutions,” a Columbia-based financial services business. Between 2013 and 2015, Wright targeted multiple individuals, some elderly, who were experiencing financial difficulty. Wright especially pursued those going through foreclosure on their homes and contacted many of them through churches and other faith-based organizations. Wright claimed that he knew a method whereby individuals could eradicate their debts by making financial claims against their birth certificates. Wright told his customers that these monetary claims against the birth certificates could then be used to satisfy the customer’s debts.
According to evidence presented at trial, Wright attempted to fraudulently discharge nearly $15 million of consumer debt. Despite Wright’s claimed belief in this payment system, he did not accept this form of payment at Money Solutions, and instead charged individuals over $140,000 of actual currency to participate in his bogus scheme. Wright also argued that his so-called “sovereign” status exempted him from the payment of income taxes.
“No one is exempt from the Rule of Law in this country,” said U.S. Attorney Lydon. “Mr. Wright’s sentence holds him accountable for years of defrauding some of the most vulnerable members of his community and taking advantage of those who were desperate for help.”
"We continue to see the negative consequences of participating in fraudulent debt elimination tactics," said Matthew D. Line, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation Charlotte Field Office. "Today's sentence is a positive message to honest taxpayers and further exhibits that the IRS and U.S. Attorney’s Office are duty bound to protect the integrity of the U.S. tax administration system, and to make sure everyone complies with their tax obligations."
The case was investigated primarily by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney T. DeWayne Pearson of the Columbia office.