Houston Couple Heads to Prison for Stolen Identity Tax Fraud
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas
HOUSTON – A 32-year-old legal permanent resident from Nigeria and his 31-year-old Houston girlfriend have been ordered to federal prison in a stolen identity tax fraud scheme, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez. Tom Emasealu and Krystal Prophet entered guilty pleas in December 2016 after four days of trial and hearing the testimony of 21 witnesses. Emasealu pleaded guilty to all charges contained in the indictment - conspiracy, possession of at least 15 unauthorized access devices, access device fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. Prophet admitted to the conspiracy, access device fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Today, U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore handed Emasealu a total of 87 months in federal prison for the conspiracy, fraud and possession of access devices. He also received a mandatory 24 months for the identity theft which must be served consecutively for a total 111-month-sentence. Prophet received 30 months plus 24 months for a total 54-month-term of federal imprisonment. Prophet will be required to serve three years of supervised release following completion of the prison term, while Emasealu is expected to face deportation proceedings following his release from prison.
Both were jointly and severally liable for $37,100.29 in restitution to the victims. Prophet and Emsealu were also found responsible for $113,526 and $273,181.29, respectfully, to the IRS.
In handing down the sentence, Judge Gilmore addressed Emasealu and noted, “You totally messed up [the victims’] lives by stealing their identities.”
According to witness testimony and the evidence admitted during trial, the conspiracy began in January 2014 and continued through May 2015. Emasealu and Prophet conspired and worked together to obtain the identities of approximately 50,000 victims located nationwide which they used to apply for debit and credit cards with various banking institutions.
The evidence showed that Emasealu and Prophet applied for and obtained approximately 230 debit cards using identities of other individuals. These identities were then used to apply for fraudulent tax refunds. The monies were deposited onto the debit cards that were previously created using victim identities.
In total, the defendants attempted to obtain approximately $1.9 million in fraudulent tax refunds. The IRS was able to stop the majority of the transactions, but Emasealu and Prophet still managed to obtain approximately $250,000 in a four-month period.
Prophet was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future. Emasealu will remain in custody.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Secret Service and IRS – Criminal Investigation conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Julie Searle and Douglas Davis prosecuted the case.
Updated April 24, 2017