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Press Release

Final conspirator sent to prison for stealing nearly $4M in IRS refunds

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

HOUSTON – A 33-year-old Houston woman has been sentenced for her role in a scheme to cash stolen tax checks, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Whitley Rachelle Carter pleaded guilty Oct. 2, 2023, to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. 

Chief U.S. District Judge Randy Crane has now ordered Carter to serve 30 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by five years of supervised release. Carter was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $4,483,987.89 to Regions Bank and PNC Bank. 

“A stolen Lamborghini, stolen checks, fake identities, fake bank accounts and callous criminals working together. Those are the ingredients for a scheme to steal almost $4 million in IRS refunds,” said Hamdani. “Carter brazenly entered banks with counterfeit identification documents and stolen checks on multiple occasions - one check as large as $2.9 million. Thanks to law enforcement’s efforts, Carter won’t be anywhere near a bank (or a check) for years to come.”   

In approximately January 2022, authorities discovered that a couple in Houston had not received their expected $2,932,446.84 IRS refund check in the mail.

An investigation revealed Kuljinder Singh Hunjan and Carter used fake IDs with the victims’ personal information to open accounts at Regions Bank in January 2022.

On Jan. 18, 2022, Hunjan and Carter deposited the victims’ refund check into the fraudulent bank account.

Bank surveillance footage helped authorities identify Hunjan and Carter, with Hunjan’s fingerprints also found on the check. The investigation linked Carter to Hunjan and co-conspirator Benjamin Thomas through phone calls and CashApp transactions.

On April 13, 2022, authorities arrested Thomas while he was driving a stolen Lamborghini. At that time, they discovered two debit cards in his possession which were linked to fraudulently created accounts used to receive the proceeds of the nearly $3 million check. The co-conspirators used stolen identities to open the accounts and launder the proceeds.

Thomas also had an ATM receipt showing a withdrawal of $800 from the Regions bank account that received the check.

Toll records from the cellphone Thomas had at the time of his arrest indicate he contacted Hunjan numerous times during the course of the conspiracy. 

Co-conspirators Hunjan, 38, Spring Valley, New York, and Thomas, 39, Richmond, pleaded guilty to the same charges Feb. 16, 2023, and Oct. 2, 2023, respectively. Hunjan was sentenced to a 42-month federal prison sentence while Thomas received 90 months. 

Carter was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

IRS Criminal Investigation, Treasury Inspector General, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, Secret Service, Texas Department of Public Safety, Houston Police Department and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Hileman prosecuted the case.

Updated June 26, 2024

Financial Fraud