Sessions nails criminals in stolen ID / tax fraud cases

The Department of Justice announced sentences imposed in two separate cases Wednesday, both against people who used stolen identities to defraud the U.S. government of tax refunds.

A Jacksonville, Florida, resident, Comone Denise Ross, 58, was slammed with a 42-month prison sentence for her role in a scheme involving several others to use stolen IDs, including those belonging to prisoners, to file over 100 tax returns with the IRS, seeking $411,914 in fraudulent tax refunds.

Ross was also ordered to serve three years’ supervised release and re-pay $285,412 to the IRS.

In another, even more-extensive case, two California residents were busted for stealing identities of homeless and unemployed people and filing bogus claims to the IRS for tax refunds of up to $1.5 million.

Trong Nguyen (aka John Nguyen), 57, and his codefendant Diep Vo (aka Nancy Vo), 74, would go to homeless shelters and homeless camps, claiming they could get them money from a government program designed to help people who had not worked for several years. They then convinced the victims to sign blank income tax returns and write down their name and social security number. The IRS was instructed to send the refund checks to private mailboxes controlled by Nguyen and Vo.

Nguyen was sentenced to 25 months in prison and years of supervised release, and to repay $700,816 to the IRS.

Sentencing for Vo is scheduled for Nov. 14.

Below is the full press release from the Justice Department on the Florida stolen identity case.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Florida Woman Sentenced to Prison for Stolen Identity Refund Fraud

A Jacksonville, Florida resident was sentenced to 42 months in prison for her role in a stolen identity refund fraud scheme, announced Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Clark Morris for the Middle District of Alabama.

According to documents and information provided to the court, from approximately February 2014 through February 2015, in Duval County, Florida, and Pike County, Alabama, Comone Denise Ross, 58, and others obtained stolen IDs, including the personal identifying information of prisoners. They used the information to file over 100 tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) seeking approximately $411,914 in fraudulent refunds. One co-conspirator, Devon Tucker, previously pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 32 months in prison for selling Ross identification information relating to inmates at the Troy, Alabama City Jail.

In addition to the term of prison imposed, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ordered Ross to serve three years of supervised release and to pay $285,412 in restitution to the IRS. Ross pleaded guilty in April 2017 to conspiring to defraud the government and aggravated identity theft.

Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg and Acting U.S. Attorney Morris commended special agents of IRS Criminal Investigation, who conducted the investigation, and Trial Attorneys Gregory P. Bailey and Michael P. Hatzimichalis of the Tax Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan S. Ross of the Middle District of Alabama, who prosecuted this case.

Additional information about the Tax Division’s enforcement efforts can be found on the division’s website.

Below is the full press release from the Department of Justice on the California stolen identity case:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, September 12, 2017

California Resident Sentenced to Prison for Stolen Identity Refund Fraud

Used Identities of Homeless Individuals to File Fraudulent Tax Returns

A California resident was sentenced to 25 months in prison for filing and conspiring to file fraudulent claims for income tax refunds with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), announced Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Brian J. Stretch for the Northern District of California.

According to documents filed with the court, Trong Nguyen aka John Nguyen, 57, and his codefendant Diep Vo aka Nancy Vo, 74, used the identities of homeless and unemployed individuals in the San Jose, California area to file fraudulent claims for refunds with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Vo went to homeless shelters and homeless encampments and falsely represented to individuals that she could get them money from a government program designed to assist people who had not worked in previous years. Vo convinced people to write down their names and social security numbers and to sign blank income tax returns. Vo and Nguyen then falsified the signed returns including bogus income and income tax amounts withheld and sought more than $1.5 million in refunds from the IRS. Vo and Nguyen directed the IRS to send the refund checks to private mailboxes they controlled.

In addition to the term of prison imposed, U.S. District Court Judge Beth Freeman also ordered Nguyen to serve three years of supervised release and to pay restitution to the IRS in the amount of $700,816. Nguyen previously pleaded guilty in May. Vo also pleaded guilty and she is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 14.

Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg and U.S. Attorney Stretch thanked special agents of IRS Criminal Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, who conducted the investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Newman and Trial Attorney Gregory Bernstein of the Tax Division.

Additional information about the Tax Division’s enforcement efforts can be found on the division’s website.

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