Oklahoma City Daughter and Mother Plead Guilty to Stolen Identity, Tax Fraud and Framing of Family Member for Crime
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – KASHARA STEWART, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and her mother, WONICA STEWART POPE, also of Oklahoma City, pleaded guilty today to federal crimes related to stolen identity tax refund fraud before the Honorable Joe Heaton, announced Mark A. Yancey, United States Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma.
On February 22, 2017, a federal grand jury returned a Superseding Indictment charging Kashara Stewart with seven counts of tax fraud and seven counts of aggravated identity theft. It alleges that from January 2012 through December 2012, Kashara Stewart filed false federal income tax returns in the names of individuals, without their knowledge or permission, attaching false W-2s for employers that did not employ the purported tax filers in the relevant tax years. Those false tax returns directed the IRS to deposit the claimed tax refunds into Kashara Stewart’s bank account.
The Superseding Indictment also charged Kashara Stewart’s mother, Pope, with one count of making a false statement to a federal law enforcement officer. On August 29, 2013, during the investigation of Kashara Stewart’s stolen identity refund fraud, Pope left a voicemail for an IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in which she falsely confessed to the crime. Pope falsely stated she was her sister, Wenoca Stewart, to shift blame away from her daughter.
On November 1, 2016, based in part on Pope’s phone call to IRS Criminal Investigations, a federal grand jury charged Wenoca Stewart, along with Kashara Stewart, with conspiracy and tax fraud. After learning that Pope had framed Wenoca Stewart, the United States moved to dismiss the charges against Wenoca Stewart on February 28, 2017. Wenoca Stewart is no longer charged with any federal crime.
At the plea hearing today before Judge Heaton, Kashara Stewart admitted she filed a false tax return in October 2012, claiming a tax refund based on a false W-2, for someone who did not give her permission to file a false tax return in his name. She admitted that the false tax return directed the IRS to deposit a tax refund in her account, which it did, and that she kept that refund. Pope also entered a guilty plea. She admitted to leaving a voicemail message for an IRS Special Agent who she knew was investigating false tax returns filed by Kashara Stewart. Pope admitted she had claimed to be her sister, Wenoca Stewart, and had told the agent she was responsible for the conduct he was investigating. She admitted she said in the voicemail she had lost her husband and didn’t have anything else to lose, when in fact her sister Wenoca had recently lost her husband. Pope further admitted she left that voicemail because she was trying to protect her daughter, who she knew at that time was responsible for the stolen identity refund fraud.
At sentencing, Kashara Stewart faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000, and restitution to the IRS for all related fraudulent tax filings. Pope faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. Sentencing for both will be set by the Court on a future date.
This case is the result of an investigation by IRS Criminal Investigation and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney K. McKenzie Anderson.