GA: Three Sentenced to Federal Prison for Filing Fraudulent Income Tax Returns

ATLANTA – Three members of a local fraud ring—Rodney Henry, Tony Lamar Watkins, and Phyllis Grant—have been sentenced to federal prison for conspiring to defraud the United States by filing bogus income tax returns using stolen identities. The trio stole more than $800,000, all in the form of fraudulent tax refunds.

“Phony refund schemes that use stolen identities hurt the people whose names and personal information were illegally used, and honest taxpayers throughout the country who foot the bill for the fraud,” said Acting U.S. Attorney John Horn.  “Identity theft remains a top priority of this office and will continue to be a priority until we end the victimization of our citizens through their stolen personal identities.”

“IRS Criminal Investigation will remain proactive in the investigation of individuals who engage in stealing the identities of innocent people,” said Veronica F. Hyman-Pillot, Special Agent in Charge.  “These sentences should serve as a strong message that there are consequences for stealing and using other individual’s personal identifying information.”

According to Acting U.S. Attorney Horn, the charges and other information presented in court: Rodney Henry, Tony Watkins, and Phyllis Grant worked together to use stolen identities to file federal income tax returns. Henry filed the tax-returns, which sought more than $1.9 million in refunds. Watkins assisted in the scheme by retrieving refund checks from mailboxes, forging signatures on the checks, withdrawing refunds from debit cards, and bringing checks to locations where they would be cashed. Grant opened two mailboxes for their scheme in Mableton, Georgia, and one in East Point, Georgia.  She also provided Henry with some of the identities he used on the returns.

All defendants were sentenced by U.S. District Judge William S. Duffey, Jr., as follows:

  • Rodney Henry, 43, of Atlanta, Georgia, has been sentenced to seven years, ten months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $895,699.28.  Henry was convicted on this charge, as well as a charge of aggravated identity theft, on May 22, 2014, after he pleaded guilty.
  • Tony Lamar Watkins, 49, of College Park, Georgia, has been sentenced to four years, seven months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $824,121.28. Watkins was convicted on this charge on May 23, 2014, after he pleaded guilty.
  • Phyllis Grant, 52, of Decatur, Georgia, has been sentenced to one year, two months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, a special assessment of $100, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $770,231.00. Grant was convicted on this charge after a jury found her guilty on March 12, 2015.

This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation.

Assistant United States Attorney Christopher C. Bly prosecuted the case.

This announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Since fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants.  For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.”

SOURCE: U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Georgia

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