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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Texas

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Mexican Businessowner Sentenced to 16 Years in Federal Prison for Estimated $3 Million Stolen Identity Tax Refund Fraud Scheme

In El Paso today, 44-year-old Elizabeth “Betty” Garcia de Nieto of Delicias, Chihuahua, Mexico, was sentenced to 16 years in federal prison and ordered to pay $3,009,999.80 restitution to the Government for her role in an income tax return scheme that resulted in fraudulent refunds being issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr., and IRS-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Special Agent in Charge William Cotter.

“Garcia filed false and fraudulent tax returns to steal millions from the IRS, and ultimately, from American taxpayers.  If she thought she was beyond the reach of U.S. justice, today’s sentence proves she thought wrong.  U.S. prosecutors and IRS investigators will not stop at the border in their efforts to bring tax cheats to justice,” said United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr.  

On March 23, 2016, a jury convicted Garcia (aka “Elizabeth Jurado”) of one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States; five counts of mail fraud; three counts of aiding and abetting aggravated identity theft; and, one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States with respect to claims.

Evidence presented during trial revealed that from January 2010 to February 2015, Garcia used stolen identities to create fraudulent U.S. tax returns.  Each return claimed an approximate $5,000 refund from the IRS.  Garcia gave some of the IRS refund checks to individuals to bring into the United States to be cashed at money service businesses in El Paso.  She mailed others to individuals residing in the U.S. (namely El Paso, Chaparral, NM, and Oklahoma City, OK) to be converted to U.S. currency.  All monies derived from the scheme, minus agreed-to-fees retained by co-defendants, were wired back to Garcia.

Trial testimony also revealed that in September 2014, U.S. Customs agents at the Paso del Norte Port of Entry seized ten fraudulent tax returns from an employee of Garcia.

“Elizabeth Garcia de Nieto’s sentencing today reflects the hard work and dedication of the Internal Revenue Service in fulfilling its mission by enforcing the law and helping to restore integrity to the tax system,” said Special Agent in Charge William Cotter, IRS-CI San Antonio Field Office.  “Criminal Investigators will continue to disrupt and dismantle organizations, such as Garcia’s, that seek to rob taxpayers through dishonest and fraudulent means. Today’s sentencing speaks loud and clear to everyone that no matter where the fraud is perpetrated, IRS-CI will pursue and bring to justice those that defraud the tax system.”

Prior to jury selection, 39-year-old co-defendants Christina Perez Altamirano of Oklahoma City, OK, and 35-year-old Alberto Altamirano Armendarie of Montgomery, AL, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud.  Last week, U.S. District Judge Philip R. Martinez sentenced Christina to imprisonment for one year; Alberto, to time served (approximately seven months of incarceration). 

A fourth defendant in this case--43-year-old Rodolfo Ramirez-Estrada of El Paso--also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S.  He is scheduled to be sentenced tomorrow morning by Judge Martinez.  He faces up to five years in federal prison.

This case was investigated by special agents with the IRS-CI, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Department of State—Diplomatic Security Service.  Assistant United States Attorneys Jose Luis Gonzalez, Adrian E. Gallegos and Anna Arreola are prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.

Updated August 30, 2016