U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge Appoints Donald Daniels As Election Officer For The Western District Of Michigan
The Defendants Pled Guilty to Conspiring to Defraud the United States Resulting in Nearly $200,000 in Fraudulent Federal Tax Refunds
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — United States Attorney Andrew Birge announced today that Sara Dechaune Harper (formerly, Sara Dechaune Chatmon), a 42-year-old resident of Lawrenceville, Georgia, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison, and Amika Diane Gordon, a 41-year-old resident of Lansing, Michigan, was sentenced to 18 months in prison, for their roles in a conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS"). The defendants also were ordered to pay back $199,263 that was fraudulently obtained from the U.S. Treasury during the course of the conspiracy. Chief United States District Judge Robert J. Jonker imposed the sentences.
A federal grand jury indicted Harper and Gordon in 2017 and charged both defendants with Conspiracy to Defraud the United States, a five-year felony offense. The indictment alleged that Harper and Gordon, along with other co-conspirators, agreed to file fraudulent corporate tax returns with the IRS between 2010 and 2014. The defendants were accused of creating sham business entities that sought fraudulent tax credits for fuel that was never purchased or used by those businesses.
At their sentencing hearings this week, the government proved that the members of the conspiracy filed 35 false corporate tax returns on behalf of 10 different companies that fraudulently sought more than $360,000 in federal tax refunds. The IRS successfully detected 13 of the fraudulent returns before issuing refunds to the businesses, but the fraud resulted in $199,263 in refunds being issued by the U.S. Treasury. Both defendants, in addition to serving their prison sentences and three years of supervised release, will be responsible for repaying the entire loss suffered by the U.S. Treasury as a result of the conspiracy.
U.S. Attorney Birge warned, "As businesses and individuals prepare their federal tax returns this year, they should think long and hard before attempting to falsely claim tax credits and refunds they know they are not entitled to receive. This case demonstrates that those who file false or fraudulent tax returns face prison sentences and potentially a lifetime of debt to the United States."
"Although tax cheats are planning and scheming the entire year, taxpayers need to be especially vigilant during the tax filing season, which is in full swing," stated Special Agent in Charge Manny J. Muriel, IRS Criminal Investigation. "The scheme committed by Harper and Gordon is just one example of how criminals attempt to steal from the nation’s taxpayers, but they should know IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agents are on their heels. The sentences handed down in this case should serve as notice to others of the consequences should they want to press their luck and commit, or attempt to commit, any variation of tax fraud."
This matter was investigated by IRS Criminal Investigation and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher O’Connor.