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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, April 11, 2014

Pierce County Woman Pleads Guilty to Tax Refund Fraud Scheme

Defendant Used Information From Friends And Family To Defraud IRS

            A Pierce County woman pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to a wire fraud and aggravated identity theft scheme that netted her more than $95,000, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.  BARBARA HOLLY STAHLMAN, 42, was indicted in February 2013, for a scheme in which she fraudulently claimed tax refunds using other people’s personal information.  STAHLMAN has been in custody since August 2013.  She faces at least a mandatory minimum two years in prison on the aggravated identity theft charge when she is sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton on July 11, 2014.

            “Just days ahead of the April 15 tax filing deadline, this case exemplifies the kind of damage we see from these tax refund identity theft schemes,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.  “Whether it is a one person fraud operation, or a sophisticated cyber hack, we are prioritizing these cases to protect taxpayers and the important resources they provide.”

The Justice Department’s Tax Division, in conjunction with the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices nationwide, has prioritized the investigation and prosecution of individuals who engage in stolen identity refund fraud.  In the last year alone, the Department charged more than 880 defendants involved in stolen identity refund fraud, and the IRS reports that it resolved or closed approximately 963,000 cases involving identity theft victims.

“This is an increasingly urgent problem,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “Its impact can be devastating to families that are counting on legitimate tax refunds that are diverted by identity theft. And especially in recent years, the Justice Department has seen the scale, scope, and execution of these fraud schemes grow significantly.”

According to records filed in the case, STAHLMAN used the Social Security numbers and other personally identifying information to file fraudulent tax returns without the knowledge of the people whose information she was using.  STAHLMAN used the tax identification numbers of different companies to claim employment and withheld wages – even though no employment had occurred.  In some instances STAHLMAN invented dependents on the tax returns to increase the refund.  In all between 2010 and 2013 she submitted 108 false tax returns via turbotax.com and taxACT.com.  Forty-four of those returns were accepted by the IRS who fraudulently paid out $95,331.  The payments were made to prepaid debit cards and STAHLMAN used them for her own benefit.

“Identity theft is devastating for the victims as it steals the very essence of who we are,” said Kenneth Hines, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation.  “Protecting our tax system is important to us, but we are even more passionate about bringing to justice those crooks that violate innocent people by stealing their identities.  IRS special agents together with the Department of Justice have made it a top priority to hunt down and prosecute identity thieves.”

The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney David Reese Jennings.

Updated March 20, 2015