We all remember the days of high school – sports, lunch time, cliques, dances and dreaded pop quizzes. From the age of 14 to 18, that atmosphere was the closest thing we knew to the “real world.”  For many, the largest battles included what to wear or how to pass a class, while others were less fortunate, worrying about the infamous high school bully.  Today’s Fraud of the Day from My Fox Memphis describes how some high school students learned a bit too early that bullying can continue into adulthood through the guise of a tax refund fraudster.

The article reports that a Memphis woman obtained the personally identifiable information of 250 individuals – including high school teens – to file phony tax returns.  (And you thought getting called names in the hallway was bad? Imagine being a victim of tax fraud in high school.)  While the fraudster’s targets were juvenile, her scam was anything but.  She worked with a group of associates that she directed to obtain Social Security numbers for the purpose of submitting false tax return forms.  In the end, she netted nearly a million dollars.  The fraudster directed her associates to deposit the money into fraudulent bank accounts.  A U.S. Attorney on the case said: “There is no question that pure greed and just criminal activity was the rationale behind this conduct.”  (I’m sure she had a perfectly good reason for stealing money from the federal government.)

But her fraud didn’t end there.  She also used her missing sister’s identity to obtain six licenses to apply for Social Security Survivorship benefits.  (How do you obtain six licenses from the same place?) The judge sentenced her to serve nine years in federal prison with no parole.

The fraudster spoke at her sentencing hearing and explained that she committed fraud because she wanted money to better provide for her kids.  (See, I told you. She had a perfectly good reason for theft.) In a prepared speech, she also revealed that she was happy to have been caught, asking for an opportunity to redeem herself as an “upstanding citizen.”  The judge didn’t buy it and sentenced her to nine years in federal prison.

This fraudster may have preyed on the weak, but in federal prison she will find herself back at the bottom of the food chain.  Maybe bullying high school teens by using their identity to commit tax refund fraud wasn’t such a great idea.  Oh, and nine years is more than twice the amount of time she spent in high school.

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