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Press Release

Tacoma Woman who Led Tax Fraud and ID Theft Scheme Pleads Guilty

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington
Used Prison Pen Pal Program To Obtain Identity Information For Fraudulent Tax Returns

            A Tacoma, Washington woman who used a prison pen pal program to obtain other peoples’ personally identifying information pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, announced Acting United States Attorney Annette L. Hayes.  SHANNON HENDERSON, 45, filed more than 150 fraudulent tax returns between 2009 and 2014, seeking more than $170,000 in tax refunds.  Some $56,000 in tax refunds were sent to HENDERSON before the scheme was discovered.  HENDERSON is scheduled to be sentenced on May 29, 2015.

            According to the plea agreement, between 2007 and 2009, while incarcerated at the Washington Women’s Correctional Center at Purdy, Washington, HENDERSON became pen pals with various inmates across the country and obtained the names and identifying information of real people from these inmates. HENDERSON also purchased the personal information of people who were employed in Washington State by ABM Janitorial Services from a co-conspirator in order to use these names to file false and fraudulent U.S. Individual Income Tax Returns.  HENDERSON used both the names provided by inmates and the names purchased from the coconspirator to file the fraudulent returns.  HENDERSON had the fraudulently claimed refunds loaded onto prepaid debit cards and used the addresses of friends and relatives for her fraud scheme.

            Wire fraud is punishable by up to twenty years in prison. Aggravated Identity Theft is punishable by a mandatory minimum two years in prison to run consecutive to any sentence imposed on the wire fraud count.

            The case was investigated by Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Rebecca Cohen.

Updated March 19, 2015

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