Tacoma Woman Who Led Tax Fraud and ID Theft Scheme Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison
Obtained Identity Info via Prison Pen Pal Program and Victimized Janitorial Services Employees
A Tacoma, Washington woman who used a prison pen pal program to obtain other peoples’ personally identifying information was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 30 months in prison for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. SHANNON HENDERSON, 45, filed more than 150 fraudulent tax returns between 2013 and 2014, seeking more than $170,000 in tax refunds. Some $56,000 in tax refunds were sent to HENDERSON at the addresses of friends and family members before the scheme was discovered. At the sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton said identity theft victimizes people “for no reason other than greed.”
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 co-conspirator to file the fraudulent returns. HENDERSON had the fraudulently claimed refunds loaded onto prepaid debit cards and had the cards mailed to her using the addresses of friends and relatives.
Writing to the court prosecutors explained how the identity theft had damaged victims, such as those working for the janitorial service. One victim wrote in his impact statement that his credit score was affected and as a result he was denied credit and job opportunities. Judge Leighton ordered HENDERSON to pay $56,605 in restitution to the IRS.
The case was investigated by Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Rebecca Cohen.