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Justice News

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

Friday, July 11, 2014

Pierce County Woman Sentenced to Three Years for Identity Theft and Tax Refund Fraud Scheme

Defendant Used Information Froms Friends And Family To Defraud IRS

A Pierce County woman was sentenced to three years in prison today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in a 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.  The Honorable Ronald B. Leighton sentenced her to three years in prison for her role in the scheme.

STAHLMAN filed 108 false electronic tax returns between 2010 and 2013, 44 of which were actually accepted and processed by the IRS.  Overall, STAHLMAN claimed false refunds totaling more than $500,000.  All but one of the false returns she filed was in the name of another person (one was in her own name).  In the returns actually accepted and processed by the IRS, she claimed false refunds totaling $223,383.  She directed that the refunds be paid into prepaid debit cards, which she directed be sent to her address and to the addresses of family members.  The IRS paid $87,000 in refunds to STAHLMAN before it detected her criminal pattern, after which the IRS cut off all refunds on the remaining false returns.

In its sentencing recommendation, the United States Attorney noted not only the damage STAHLMAN did to the integrity of the IRS, but also underscored “the damage she inflicted on those whose identities she commandeered.  STAHLMAN committed multiple acts of identity fraud, which has caused innocent victims to become entangled with the IRS, over returns they did not file, and refunds they never received.  It will take years for them to cleanse their names of the stain of Stahlman’s fraud.” 

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

            Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Tessa Gorman, at 206-553-7970, or
Updated March 20, 2015