Local Man Convicted in Two Conspiracies
HOUSTON – A 46 year-old Houston resident has entered a guilty plea to conspiring to steal money from victim bank accounts and conspiring to steal taxpayer money by obtaining fraudulent income tax refunds, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
In the first scheme, Joseph Johnson and others would impersonate victims and call their banks during which time they would deceive them into providing selected information. Over time, they would receive enough information to be able to pass the bank’s challenge questions, thereby allowing them to access victim accounts. The conspirators then changed the login credentials, ordered checks, transferred money to fraudulent accounts and withdrew the funds before the fraud could be uncovered. From this scheme, Johnson and others caused an intended loss of at least $447,102.82.
Johnson also pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit tax refund fraud. Johnson and his co-conspirators would file fraudulent tax returns with the IRS that listed false employment, income, tax deductions and tax credits. Often, Johnson and his co-conspirators filed these fraudulent tax returns under the names of victims whose identities they stole. Shortly after the money was deposited, the conspirators withdrew the money and divided it among themselves the funds could be frozen.
U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes accepted the pleas today and has set sentencing for June 4, 2018. At that time, Johnson faces up to 20 years in prison for the tax fraud conspiracy as well as another five years for the impersonation scam. Both convictions also carry a possible fine of $250,000.
He was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.
The FBI and IRS - Criminal Investigation conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Chu is prosecuting the case.