Alabama Woman Pleads Guilty in ID Theft and Tax Refund Fraud Schemes
Antoinette Djonret pleaded guilty on October 31 in two cases: one involving the filing of more than a million dollars worth of false tax returns using stolen identities and the other case involving the filing of false tax returns for clients, the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced.
On Aug. 9, 2012, a federal grand jury in Montgomery, Ala., returned a superseding indictment charging Djonret and five others for conspiring to file false tax returns using stolen identities and various other charges. Djonret had earlier been charged with making false claims in a criminal complaint that was filed on Feb. 22, 2012, and in an indictment that was filed on March 28, 2012. Djonret pleaded guilty in this case to one count of conspiring to file false tax returns and one count of aggravated identity theft.
According to the court documents, between October 2009 and April 2012, Djonret and her co-conspirators filed more than 1,000 false tax returns that claimed more than $1.7 million in fraudulent tax refunds. Djonret obtained stolen identities from multiple sources, including Alabama state databases. She and her co-conspirators filed most of the tax returns from her residence in Montgomery. They used an elaborate network of individuals to launder the tax refunds and recruited individuals to purchase prepaid debit cards to which the fraudulent tax refunds were directed. Djonret and her co-conspirators would then use the prepaid debit cards to obtain the proceeds. The Department of Justice’s press release on this case did not indicate which Alabama state databases were involved nor how Djonret and her co-conspirators were able to access them.
In March 2012, the owner of a Montgomery tax preparation business and five return preparers, one of whom was Djonret, were charged with conspiring to defraud the United States and aiding in the filing of false tax returns. According to court documents, in 2007 and 2008, Djonret was employed as a tax preparer at Premier Tax in Montgomery. Djonret received instructions on how to file false tax returns and admitted to filing false tax returns for real clients. She pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting the presentation of a false tax return in relation to this case.
In related news, Bruce King, the owner and operator of Premier Tax, pleaded guilty last Friday. Vonecia Orum, a former tax preparer for Premier Tax, also pleaded guilty last week for her role in the fraud scheme. So far, nine people have pleaded guilty for participation in the scheme.
Sentencing for Djonret has been scheduled for Feb. 6, 2013. She faces between two and 15 years in prison, three years of supervised release, restitution and a maximum fine of $750,000, or twice the loss caused by the offense.
I’ve emailed the DOJ to request more details on what state databases were compromised and how. Looking back through my own blog and DataLossDB, the only Alabama database to have been mentioned in any media reports involving breaches was the Department of Correction, and we have no information to suggest that that report is related to this fraud ring.
I really wish DOJ would just make this part of the press releases template: give details on how/when/where identity information was stolen. Is it too late to teach an old DOJ new transparency tricks?