Have you ever dreamed of winning the lottery? Perhaps you’d use the proceeds to buy a nice vacation property, your own private island or maybe you could set up a charity or pay off a big loan. An article in The Augusta Chronicle covers the story of a Georgia woman who didn’t exactly win the lottery, but led a million-dollar tax fraud conspiracy that defrauded the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) through bogus tax returns claiming lottery winnings.
The story states that more than a dozen people were involved in the scheme that involved filing fraudulent tax returns in the names of 90 people, claiming entitlement to a refund due to overpayment of taxes on lottery winnings. (Now that certainly is a new twist on tax fraud.)
The operation was a family affair and involved the ringleader’s nephew, two sisters, two daughters and a host of other co-conspirators. The ringleader’s two sisters assisted with the scam by stealing the identities of patients from two area hospitals where they were employed. The operation unraveled when a bank employee noticed that multiple tax refund checks addressed to different names were being deposited to the account of one of the members of the conspiracy. (Kudos to the bank employee for calling out the suspicious activity.)
Ten of the co-conspirators have already been sentenced for their part in the scheme. The last members, including the ringleader and her nephew, recently were handed their sentences totaling nearly 12 years and five years respectively. The mastermind behind the scheme also has to pay the IRS $1.29 million in restitution. The two sisters who stole the identities of their victims received nearly four years and five years in prison, respectively. One 23-year-old daughter got five years in prison and the other 22-year-old daughter got five years of probation. The other co-conspirators got anywhere from five years of probation up to more than eight years in prison. (It sounds like they got what they deserved for their illegal acts.)
Perhaps these fraudsters would have had a better chance at winning the lottery if they had actually pooled their resources together and bought multiple lottery tickets instead of trying to use the lottery as an excuse to scam the government. Unfortunately, they did not hit the jack pot and their unlucky streak landed them behind bars for the foreseeable future.
Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Last Members of Million-dollar Tax Fraud Conspiracy Sentenced to Prison,” written by Sandy Hodson and published by The Augusta Chronicle on June 20, 2014.
The last members of a million-dollar tax fraud scheme were sentenced to prison Wednesday.
Angela Willingham, 41, who was described as the ringleader, was sentenced to 142 months in prison, and her nephew James Butler, 22, received 60 months in prison.