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Press Release

Postal Carrier And Another Convicted In Massive Stolen Identity Tax Refund Fraud Scheme

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

HOUSTON – Tangela R. Jackson-Lezeau, 34, and Kerry Lionel Ruffin, 31, have both entered guilty pleas in a scheme in which fraudulent tax returns were filed using identification information that was stolen and used without lawful authority, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.

Both entered guilty pleas to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Ruffin also pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft.

According to court records, Ruffin obtained stolen personal identifying information (PII) from a Fulton County, Ga., employee who had received the information from Rance Hunter, 29, of Atlanta, Ga. Hunter had access to the sheriff’s office database including names, birth dates and Social Security numbers of arrestees, inmate, and employees.

Ruffin, of Atlanta, acted as a conduit, funneling the stolen PII to co-conspirators in Houston. From 2010 through 2013, Ruffin’s co-conspirators used the stolen PII to file thousands of fraudulent tax returns claiming more than $12 million in refunds.  According to Internal Revenue Service records, the National Treasury paid out more than $6 million before the scheme was discovered.  The tax refunds generated by the fraudulent returns were often deposited onto reloadable debit cards and mailed to addresses under control of the conspirators.

Jackson-Lezeau was employed as a postal carrier in Port Saint Lucie, Fla. She was recruited into the scheme and paid for allowing addresses on her delivery route to be used by the co-conspirators as locations where the fraudulently obtained tax refunds could be sent.  After gathering the mail containing the refund debit cards, Jackson-Lezeau sent it via express mail to her co-conspirators in Houston.

Hunter previously pleaded guilty in a companion case and is set for sentencing Oct. 8, 2014. 

Co-conspirator Calvin Shelton, a postal carrier in Atlanta, pleaded guilty May 21, 2014 to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud, seven counts of wire fraud and seven counts of aggravated identity theft for his part in the scheme. He remains in custody awaiting sentencing, set for Aug. 14, 2014.

U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison, who accepted the guilty pleas today, has set sentencing for Sept. 3, 2014. At that time, Ruffin and Jackson-Lezeau face of up to 20 years imprisonment for the conspiracy charge. Ruffin also faces another mandatory two years for the aggravated identity theft which must be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed. Both convictions also carry a possible $250,000 maximum fine. They were permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.

The matter was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney James R. Buchanan.

Updated April 30, 2015