Houston Couple Pleads Guilty in the Midst of Stolen Identity Tax Fraud Trial
HOUSTON – A 31-year-old legal permanent resident from Nigeria and his 30-year-old Houston girlfriend have entered guilty pleas in a stolen identity tax fraud scheme after four days of trial and hearing the testimony of 21 witnesses, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.
Tom Emasealu pleaded guilty yesterday 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. This morning, his co-defendant and girlfriend, Krystal Prophet, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, access device fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
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.
The conspiracy conviction carries up to five years imprisonment, while the possession of 15 or more unauthorized access devices and trafficking in unauthorized access devices both carry possible maximum sentences of 10 years. They also face another possible 20 years for the conviction of wire fraud. Each count of aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory two-year-term of imprisonment which ust be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed.
U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore accepted the pleas and set sentencing for March 6, 2017. Emasealu will remain in custody while Prophet was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.
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.