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Defendant and Co-Conspirators Used False Tax Identification Numbers to Seek more than $5 Million in Refunds
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A Charlotte woman charged in a scheme to defraud the government by obtaining false and fraudulent income tax refunds pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court today, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
Jeannine Hammett, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division joins U.S. Attorney Tompkins in making today’s announcement.
A criminal bill of indictment filed in December 2012, charged Ana Portillo, 42, of Charlotte (also known as Ana Portillo-Flores, Ana Flores-Portillo, Peladita Portillo or Lety Portillo), with one count of false claims conspiracy, for the filing of false tax returns seeking tax refunds based on fraudulently obtained Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs). According to court documents and today’s plea hearing, from in or about January 2012 and continuing to July 2012, Portillo and her co-conspirators agreed to defraud the U.S. Treasury Department by participating in a scheme to obtain false tax refunds. Court records show that the co-conspirators had obtained ITIN numbers for various individuals using Mexican birth certificates and other documents. The co-conspirators then used these ITIN numbers to prepare false federal tax returns seeking fraudulent refunds claiming false wage, income, and withholding information and claiming multiple dependents. According to court filings and court proceedings, part of the scheme was that the co-conspirators would rent apartments at complexes featuring centralized mailboxes and use addresses at the apartment complexes as the addresses on the fraudulent tax returns. Court documents indicate that the co-conspirators then caused the Treasury Department to mail the false tax refund checks to these specially chosen addresses.
According to the charging documents and information presented in court, at least 1,104 fraudulent tax returns have been associated with the conspiracy, claiming $5.1 million in refunds. Of this amount, the IRS issued refunds totaling approximately $1.6 million. Court records show that the co-conspirators would arrange for the refund checks to be cashed and would then deposit that cash into bank accounts or hold it in safety deposit boxes and wire it to Mexico.
Portillo entered her guilty plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge David S. Cayer. Her co-conspirators, Cathy Cisneros, 30, and Candida Figueroa, 42, both of Charlotte, previously pleaded guilty to one count of false claims conspiracy for the same scheme, in October and November 2012, respectively.
Portillo has been released on bond pending sentencing. Both Figueroa and Cisneros have been in local federal custody since August 2012. A sentencing date for Portillo and her co-conspirators has not been set. Each defendant faces a maximum prison term of 10 years, a $250,000 fine, or both.
The investigation was handled by IRS-Criminal Investigations Division with substantial assistance from the U.S. Postal Service. The prosecution is being handled for the government by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jenny Grus Sugar of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte.