Two Lansing "Homeless" IRS Scam Defendants Sentenced
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — Two additional defendants connected to a Lansing, Michigan area family-run scam were sentenced in federal court, U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles announced today. Defendant Qasim Ibn-Ishaq Verser was sentenced to a term of three years’ incarceration, three years of supervised release and restitution in the amount of $223,140.00. Defendant Tsiidzoyedu Callista Chiwocha was sentenced to a term of incarceration of 12 months plus one day, three years of supervised release and restitution in the amount of $24,385.00.
The scheme involved deceiving citizens into providing their personal identification information by promising them "free stimulus money." Many of the victims in this case were homeless persons or suffered from addiction and disability issues. The tax returns typically contained false reporting of undocumented income and abusive use of the Earned Income credit. Two more co-defendants in this tax fraud scam face sentencing in the next thirty days.
"My office has no tolerance for those who take advantage of the trust of the vulnerable only to scam the system and line their own pockets," stated U.S. Attorney Miles. He was joined in the announcement by Jarod J. Koopman, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation and David P. Gelios, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Detroit Division.
Complaints by local citizens prompted the Federal Bureau of Investigation to open a criminal investigation, including obtaining multiple search warrants to seize evidence of a tax fraud scheme. During the multi-year investigation, more than fifty subpoenas were issued to track down the tax refunds which had been paid into numerous bank accounts. In some instances, the personal identification information was used to file a tax return in a successive year. In an earlier prosecution, Taka Chiwocha-Crowell pled guilty to filing false tax returns and was sentenced to 42 months’ incarceration.
The IRS estimates that Chiwocha, Verser and their co-defendants were collectively responsible for filing 965 false tax returns, and collectively receiving payments of $1,403,367 in false tax refunds.
The investigation was conducted by the Lansing Office of the FBI and the Lansing Office of IRS Criminal Investigations. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael A. MacDonald.