In the Grand Scheme of Things

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation explains that the sovereign citizen extremist movement in the U.S. consists of “anti-government extremists who believe that even though they physically reside in this country, they are separate or ‘sovereign’ from the United States.” That means they don’t believe that they have to answer to any government authority. (This includes courts, taxing entities, motor vehicle departments, or law enforcement.) Today’s “Fraud of the Day” article takes a look at a ‘sovereign citizen’ from Chicago, who used a vulnerability within the federal trust tax return processing system to orchestrate a massive tax fraud scheme resulting in a $3.2 million loss from the government tax agency.

The fraudster at the center of today’s case was self-proclaimed to be the “Grand Sheik” of the Moorish temple in Chicago. He used his position within the organization to recruit individuals, who were usually elderly or homeless, to participate in his scam. He told them that if they became members, they could claim money owed to the Moors by the federal government. (Apparently, he communicated that these co-conspirators were entitled to tax refunds from the federal government for its “use of Moorish lands.” Further research shows that court documents showed he claimed his Moorish ancestors had discovered America and that a Moorish prophet had been given the deeds to all lands making up North America.)

Over two years, the “Grand Sheik” instructed at least 17 people to file approximately 50 retroactive tax returns seeking more than $15 million in refunds. (Fortunately, they only collected $3.2 million before being caught by federal investigators who were able to recover $852,221.)

The “Grand Sheik” took a 10 percent cut of the money received from the IRS. One temple member paid the mastermind $90,000 after receiving $900,000 in tax refunds. (I can’t even fathom receiving that much money in a tax return. That’s like winning the lottery.) The “Grand Sheik” also intentionally filed a few fraudulent returns himself. He sought $900,000 in refunds, received more than $300,000 from the IRS, then over several months converted the funds for his own use.

The 47-year-old self-professed “Grand Sheik” from the Chicago branch of the Moorish Science Temple of America pleaded guilty to tax fraud and was sentenced to 68 months in federal prison. Seven of his followers or co-conspirators were sentenced to relatively short prison terms for their part in the scam.

In the grand scheme of things, this “Grand Sheik” turned out grand only in name. He preyed upon unsophisticated and vulnerable individuals to help him carry out this crime. A more likely term for this man would be the “Grand Fraudster of the Day.” It looks like over the next couple of years, life will not be very grand at all for this criminal as he serves out his sentence for committing tax fraud.

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, ’Grand Sheik’ of Chicago Moorish temple gets 6 years for tax fraud,” published by The Chicago Sun Times on September 11, 2017.

The self-proclaimed “Grand Sheik” of a Moorish temple in Chicago was sentenced to nearly six years in prison Friday for defrauding the IRS out of $3.2 million.

Marcel A. Walton, 47, pleaded guilty last year to one count of mail fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.