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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Six Tax Return Preparers Sentenced for Filing False Tax Returns with the IRS Using Stolen Identities

Scheme claimed more than $6.6 million in fraudulent tax refunds

Six additional tax return preparers were sentenced for filing false tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in a scheme that claimed more than $6,663,976 in fraudulent tax refunds.

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Kelly R. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Mark Selby, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), and Antonio J. Gomez, Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Miami Division, made the announcement.  

On August 8, 2016, Danny Horne, 30, was sentenced to 51 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay joint and several restitution in the amount of $200,484. On July 29, 2016, Artravette Thomas, a/k/a Artravette Wilson, 41, was sentenced to 51 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay joint and several restitution in the amount of $538,765. On July 22, 2016, Tomeka Anderson, a/k/a Tomeka Owens, 36, was sentenced to 65 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay joint and several restitution in the amount of $774,320. On July 21, 2016, Natalie Mitchell, 42, and Artrice Reid, a/k/a Artrice Nelson, 40, were each sentenced to 57 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and were ordered to pay joint and several restitution in the amounts of $954,557 and $880,457, respectively. On July 20, 2016, Tiffany Gaines, a/k/a Tiffany Morris, 38, was sentenced to 61 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay joint and several restitution in the amount of $607,377. Each of the defendants previously pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to claims, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 286, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349, and one count of aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A(1).

Four additional co-conspirators previously pled guilty and were sentenced for their participation in the fraudulent scheme.  On December 15, 2015, Tameka Walker, 38, Celia Cromer, 43, and Maritynque Cromer, 25, were sentenced to 78 months, 50 months, and 36 months in prison, respectively, followed by three years of supervised release, and were all ordered to pay joint and several restitution in the amount of $796,535.  On September 29, 2015, Marlin Mejia, 29, was sentenced to 21 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $17,428.

Co-defendant Paganini Fleurantin, a/k/a Hu’Ra Al’Dey, 28, pled not guilty. A trial date has not been set.

According to court documents, from September 2010 through May 22, 2013, the defendants conspired to defraud the IRS by filing fraudulent tax returns claiming fraudulent tax refunds. Defendant Walker owned and operated Family Tree Taxes, Inc., a tax preparation business in Miami Gardens. Walker purchased stolen personal identification information (PII) from various sources, including defendant Mejia, to file fraudulent tax returns. Mejia worked as a radiology transporter at a hospital and stole documents (face sheets) containing patients’ PII (including names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers) from patient files at the hospital. Mejia knew the PII belonged to real people who did not authorize him to possess their personal information. Mejia sold the face sheets to Walker knowing that Walker would use the stolen PII to file fraudulent tax returns.

Defendants Mitchell, Reid, Anderson, Gaines, Thomas, Horne, Fleurantin, Celia Cromer and Maritynque Cromer were employed by Walker as tax preparers at Family Tree Taxes. The employees filed tax returns using stolen identities to claim fraudulent tax refunds, and also filed tax returns claiming fraudulent overinflated tax refunds. Specifically, the stolen PII of 95 hospital patients was used by the employees to claim over $76,757 in fraudulent tax refunds. And in 2012, Mejia authorized Walker to file a tax return for him claiming a fraudulent overinflated tax refund of $3,452.

As part of the conspiracy, the defendants collectively filed tax returns claiming over $6.6 million in fraudulent tax refunds.

A defendant is presumed innocent unless he is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI, ICE-HSI, and the USPIS.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Vanessa Snyder.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

Topic(s): 
Tax
Updated August 10, 2016