LOS ANGELES– The last of six defendants who conspired to use stolen identities to file fraudulent tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service that sought more than $1.5 million in false tax refunds was sentenced today to 51 months in federal prison.
Wesley Wade Hunter, 47, a former Los Angeles resident who was in a California prison when he committed the federal tax offense, was sentenced by United States District Judge George H. Wu. In addition to the prison term, Judge Wu ordered Hunter to pay the IRS $104,283 in restitution.
Hunter, who also goes by the moniker “Godfather,” pleaded guilty in April to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States by obtaining the payment of false claims, namely tax refunds.
“This defendant was able to victimize both the United States government and individuals who had tax returns fraudulently filed in their names while an inmate in a state prison,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Fortunately, the hard work of IRS personnel enabled them to identify and reject the majority of the defendant's fraudulent tax refund claims. The defendant's persistent criminal conduct warranted the significant federal sentence imposed today.”
According to court documents, during the course of the scheme that was shut down in May 2012, Hunter filed or assisted in the filing of fraudulent tax returns that sought refunds using the identities of over 250 individuals. Hunter and the other co-conspirators obtained the names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and other personal identification information of individuals without their knowledge and consent. Hunter and others knowingly filed false federal income tax returns that claimed fraudulent tax refund payments based upon fraudulent wage and withholding amounts under their own names and under the names and Social Security numbers of the identity theft victims. Members of the conspiracy cashed the fraudulently obtained refund checks.
In all, Hunter's conduct resulted in an intended loss of more than $1.5 million and an actual loss of approximately $104,283 to the United States government.
“Using the names and identities of over 250 taxpayers, Mr. Hunter operated a massive tax fraud and identity theft conspiracy scheme which attempted to defraud the U.S. government of over $1.5 million,” stated Anthony J. Orlando, Acting Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation. “Let this conviction serve as a warning to others contemplating the same type of scheme – IRS Criminal Investigation will continue to vigorously pursue those who unjustly enrich themselves by stealing identities and filing false income tax returns.”
Hunter is one of six defendants who pleaded guilty to this scheme, which operated in both San Luis Obispo and Los Angeles counties. In January of 2015, a federal grand jury returned a 17-count indictment charging Hunter and five others with identity theft and the tax refund conspiracy scheme. The others named in the indictment are:
· Crystal Coleman, 59, of Los Angeles, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy, was sentenced to 17 months in prison and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $207,071;
· Latasha Coates, 36, of Los Angeles, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy, was sentenced to two months in prison and was ordered to pay $65,648 in restitution;
· Guadalupe Flores, 34, of Los Angeles, who pleaded guilty to theft of public money, was sentenced to three years of probation and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $153,169;
· Lisa Tavra, 44, of Las Vegas, Nevada, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy, was sentenced to three years of probation and was ordered to pay $30,026 in restitution; and
· Lourdes Brown, 48, of Modesto, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy, also was sentenced to three years of probation and was ordered to pay $124,234 in restitution.
This investigation was conducted by IRS Criminal Investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ryan White of the General Crimes Section.
USAO – California, Central Updated August 30, 2016
Central District of California DOJ / 16-203 / August 29, 2016