Two Charlotte Women Sentenced To Prison For Fraudulent Tax Refund Scheme
United States Attorney Anne M. Tompkins Western District Of North Carolina
Defendants Sought More Than $3 Million In Tax Refunds Using False Tax Identification Numbers
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Two Charlotte women were sentenced to prison by U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr. on Thursday, November 7, 2013, for obtaining false and fraudulent income tax refunds, 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 and Keith Fixel, Inspector in Charge of the Charlotte Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service join U.S. Attorney Tompkins in making today’s announcement.
Candida Figueroa, 42, of Charlotte, was sentenced to serve 30 months in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release. Figueroa pleaded guilty in November 2012 to one count of false claims conspiracy. Her co-defendant, Cathy Cisneros, 31, also of Charlotte, was sentenced to 37 months in prison and was ordered to serve three years under court supervision following her prison term. Cisneros also pleaded guilty to one count of false claims conspiracy in October 2012. Judge Cogburn ordered both defendants to pay restitution to IRS in the amount of $1,658,477.67.
“Figueroa and Cisneros thought they could get away with ripping off the government and honest taxpayers who file truthful and honest tax returns. But instead of a pot of gold, the pair found prison cells waiting at the end of their tax fraud rainbow,” said U.S. Attorney Tompkins.
Special Agent in Charge Jeannine A. Hammett, IRS Criminal Investigation said, “IRS CI is committed to stopping those who undermine the federal tax system. Preparers like these defendants seek to enrich themselves by essentially stealing from all of us who pay our taxes honestly.”
According to filed court documents and yesterday’s sentencing hearing, from January to July 2012, Figueroa and Cisneros conspired to defraud the U.S. Treasury Department by participating in a scheme to obtain false tax refunds, using fraudulently obtained Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs). Court records indicate that the two women obtained ITIN numbers for various individuals using Mexican birth certificates and other documents. Then, using these ITIN numbers, the defendants prepared fraudulent federal tax returns seeking refunds based on false wage, income, and withholding tax information and claiming multiple dependents.
According to filed court records, Figueroa and Cisneros rented apartments at complexes with clustered mailboxes and then used the multiple apartment addresses on the fraudulent tax returns they submitted to IRS seeking refunds, causing the Treasury Department to mail false tax refund checks to these addresses.
Court records reflect that at least 1,104 fraudulent tax returns claiming $5.1 million in refunds have been associated with the pair’s conspiracy. Of this amount, the IRS issued refunds totaling approximately $1.6 million. As part of the scheme, Figueroa and Cisneros arranged for the Treasury checks to be cashed, and then they deposited the cash into bank accounts or held it in safety deposit boxes before wiring it to Mexico. To date, law enforcement have recovered $136,334.
Figueroa and Cisneros are currently in federal custody and will be transferred to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility. All federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.
A third co-conspirator, Ana Portillo, 42, of Charlotte, (also known as Ana Portillo-Flores, Ana Flores-Portillo, Peladita Portillo or Lety Portillo), pleaded guilty in May 2013, to one count of false claims conspiracy for participating in the tax fraud scheme. Portillo is currently released on bond and is awaiting sentencing. She faces a maximum prison term of 10 years, a $250,000 fine, or both.
The case was investigated by the 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.