Jail birds usually have a structured scheduled: wake up for head count, eat, go to work or cells, eat, head count and bed. That routine doesn’t leave much time for extra-curricular activities, for example tax refund fraud. For one South Carolina prisoner, a little spare time and a little outside help may have guaranteed him an extended stay in one of the state’s finest correctional facilities. Today’s Fraud of the Day from WLTX.com tells how one inmate set up quite a tax refund fraud business for himself.
The article reports that the defendant utilized help from outside of prison to bilk the federal government of more than $275,000 in false tax returns. Prosecutors presented evidence that connected the fraudster with the submission of fictitious tax returns using stolen identities. (Where did he get those? He’s in jail.) In all, he claimed over $1 million in the year 2008, cashing in on $275,000. (So he only made $275,000 in 2008 and then quit? I wonder…) A judge sentenced the criminal entrepreneur to 45 months in prison, and ordered him to pay $134,468 in restitution.
Our jailbird wasn’t alone in this fraud; he had a female counterpart on the outside helping. Investigators discovered the system, revealing the woman would cash the checks at a convenience store in Augusta, in return for a fee paid from the man of the hour behind bars. (Don’t you think the amount of checks cashed would have been suspicious?) A judge sentenced her to 30 months in prison and ordered her to pay over $130,000 in restitution. Investigations found a third participant, sentencing him to six months in prison and ordering him to pay $6,274. A U.S. attorney on the case stated, “Our office will vigorously pursue those who abuse the tax system for personal gain, particularly those who do so from prison. Honest tax payers deserve to know that their contributions are going to further the good work for the federal government and not lining the pockets of criminals.”
Often we feel peace inside to hear that a criminal is put behind bars. Now discovering the capabilities many criminals have to continue illegal activities from behind bars, the peace slowly fades to unease. Perhaps this time the prison will monitor “extra-curricular activities” – keeping fraud out of reach.