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Press Release

Two sent to prison for stealing nearly $3M in IRS refunds

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

HOUSTON – Two men have been sentenced for their roles in a scheme to cash stolen tax checks, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Benjamin Thomas, 38, Richmond, and Kuljinder Singh Hunjan, 38, Spring Valley, New York, pleaded guilty and Oct. 2 and Feb. 16, 2023, respectively.

U.S. District Chief Judge Randy Crane has now imposed a 90-month-term of imprisonment for Thomas, while Hunjan received 42 months. Both must also serve three years of supervised release following their sentences and were ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $4,483,987.89. In handing down the prison terms, Judge Crane noted they engaged in a complex and sophisticated fraud scheme.

In approximately January 2022, authorities learned of a Houston couple who never received their $2,932,446.84 IRS refund check they were expecting in the mail.

The investigation revealed Hunjan and Whitley Rachelle Carter had used fake IDs with the victims’ names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers to open accounts at Regions Bank on various dates in January 2022

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

Authorities were able to identify Hunjan and Carter from bank surveillance. Hunjan’s fingerprints were also found on the check. The investigation linked Carter to Hunjan and Thomas by phone calls and cash app transactions.

On April 13, 2022, authorities arrested Thomas as he was driving a stolen Lamborghini. At that time, he possessed two debit cards for fraudulently-created accounts that were used to receive the proceeds of the aforementioned refund check. These accounts were opened with stolen identities of others to launder the proceeds of the nearly $3 million check.

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 possessed at the time of his arrest indicate that he contacted Hunjan numerous times during the course of the conspiracy. 

Carter, 33, Houston, is set for sentencing May 21. At that time, she faces up to 30 years in federal prison as well as a possible $1 million maximum fine.

Hunjan and Thomas were 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 for Tax Administration, Houston Police Department, FBI and Texas Department of Public Safety conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Hileman prosecuted the case.

Updated February 21, 2024

Financial Fraud