Nine women sentenced for $24 million identity theft and tax refund fraud scheme using personal identification information of military personnel

Who

Keisha Lanier, Tracy Mitchell, and seven other women

Where

Montgomery, Alabama

What they did

From around January 2011 through December 2013, Lanier and Mitchell masterminded a large-scale identity theft, tax fraud and money laundering scheme, claiming more than $24 million in fraudulent tax refunds and collecting nearly $10 million.

How they did it

Identity Theft – Tracy Mitchell worked at a hospital where she obtained the personal identification information of U.S. Army personnel, including soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. She and her daughter Latasha also worked together to obtain additional stolen identities from a state agency. The other co-conspirators gathered identities from other state agencies, the Alabama Department of Corrections, a call center in Columbus, Georgia and from a Georgia company’s employee records.

Tax Refund Fraud – The conspirators established sham tax businesses and obtained Electronic Filing Numbers from the IRS, as well as check stock and other products from various banks. They directed the IRS to issue tax refunds to prepaid debit cards or checks; they also printed refund checks from their blank check stock when the IRS deposited funds directly into their company bank accounts. When the banks ceased allowing them to print out tax refund checks, they hired corrupt postal employees to collect refund checks that were mailed to various addresses along their routes and to deliver those checks to them.

Money Laundering – The conspirators used text messaging to coordinate a fraudulent check cashing scheme in three states. Nearly $10 million was cashed by the conspirators and other people they recruited through the Columbus Walmart where one of the conspirators worked, and at various businesses in Georgia, Alabama and Kentucky.

The charges

The charges against the conspirators included:

The sentences

Keisha Lanier was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment plus 3 years of supervised release, and was also ordered to forfeit $5,811,406. Tracy Mitchell was sentenced to 13 years plus 3 months imprisonment (in addition, $329,242 was found in her home and seized by the government). Most of the other conspirators were sentenced to between 2 and 5 years in prison, and ordered to pay from $440,176 up to $760,512 in restitution to the IRS. Two of the co-conspirators (who appear to have been involved only in the check-cashing scheme) received lighter sentences – one year in prison or two years’ probation, and smaller restitution amounts.

California Criminal Tax Defense Attorneys

Victim impact statements were made at sentencing, including the mother of a soldier who was deployed at the time of the identity theft. Considering this and the magnitude of the operation, it is not surprising that the sentences were especially harsh for the ringleaders in particular. If you are being investigated for tax refund fraud or other financial crime against the government, you need to be represented by a highly qualified criminal tax attorney. Contact the San Francisco offices of Moskowitz, LLP today.

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