An indictment, today unsealed in federal court, has charged 12 Georgia residents for their role in a fraudulent income tax refund ring. The indictment follows a 14-month joint investigation by the IRS Criminal Investigation, the FBI and the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.
According to the indictment, from 2009 to 20011, the defendants conspired to file at least 90 phony income tax returns on behalf of individuals whose identities had been stolen. The income tax returns fraudulently sought refunds from the IRS totaling more than $500,000.
United States Attorney Edward Tarver said, "These defendants are alleged to have systematically stolen the identities of others, all in an effort to steal from the United States taxpayers. The United States Attorney's Office will hold identity thieves and fraudsters accountable, and will make sure that the only identity they'll be able to use will be the one stitched on their prison jumpsuit."
"Identity theft is a despicable crime that victimizes honest taxpayers and causes immense hardship," said Veronica Hyman-Pillot, IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge. "Identifying, investigating and vigorously prosecuting those individuals involved in tax related identity theft schemes remains a top priority for IRS Criminal Investigation. The recent indictments and arrests are just a sample of what is to come as we join forces with our law enforcement partners and the United States Attorney's office to put an end to identity theft."
The 12 defendants indicted include:
ANGELA WILLINGHAM, 40, Hephzibah, Georgia
SANTANA WILLINGHAM, 23, Hephzibah, Georgia
JAMES BUTLER, 21, Hephzibah, Georgia
DENTAVIA MCNAIR, 23, Augusta, Georgia
BRITTNEY WRIGHT, 25, Evans, Georgia
JANICE SMALLEY, 47, Augusta, Georgia
PATRICE ROBERSON, 36, Waynesboro, Georgia
CHERYL WILLINGHAM, 37, Augusta, Georgia
MATTHEW HARRINGTON, 45, Savannah, Georgia
SANTRECE WILLINGHAM, 22, Hephzibah, Georgia
LASANDRA WHITFIELD, 42, Waynesboro, Georgia
KELLY BARTON, 35, Augusta, Georgia.
An indictment is only an accusation and is not evidence of guilt. The Defendants are entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the Government's burden to prove the Defendants' guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Assistant United States Attorneys Patricia Green Rhodes is prosecuting the case for the United States.
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