A Decade in Jail

36417384 - serious judge about to bang gavel on sounding block in the court room

A decade is a long time. Whether you’re thinking back over key milestones (e.g., your kid starting high school, graduating, going on to college, starting his/her first job, etc.) or counting down the days until a decade of jail time is over, you’ll likely realize 10 years is a lengthy chunk of time. Today’s Fraud of the Day from the Columbus Dispatch tells the story of how one Caribbean national, who committed tax refund fraud, will spend almost the next 10 years of his life away from the beach and behind bars in a U.S. prison.

The article reports that the defendant pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft, resulting from a case in which he claimed more than $120 million in tax refunds. (Go big or go home.)<em? He admitted to filing 645 false federal tax returns between 2007 and 2011, using identities of individuals who were deceased to receive more than $19 million from the U.S. Treasury and Internal Revenue Service (IRS). (Ok, I take that back. Go big and go to jail.) But how did one guy manage to make nearly $20 million in a matter of four years?

An Opposing Views articl? gives us a deeper look into the scheme. Investigators found that the fraudster obtained the personal identification information of deceased individuals and then forged the deceased individual’s signature on the tax return, or listed himself as the deceased’s representative. He then directed the government to administer checks to addresses and/or bank accounts he controlled.

The defendant will serve 114 months (that’s 9 years) in prison and was ordered to pay $1.7 million in restitution. Although he was caught, and had to kiss his money goodbye, there is a ”positive” for the fraudster behind bars – he has almost 10 years to figure out how to make that money back. A decade is a good long time for personal reflection and business plan writing. Perhaps he can create a credible representation agency upon his release?

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Man Gets 9 ½ Years for Stealing IDs, Tax Fraud,” and published by The Columbus Dispatch on November 8, 2012.

A Barbados national who stole the identities of hundreds of dead people in a scheme to collect more than $120 million in bogus tax refunds from the U.S. government was sentenced in federal court yesterday to 9 1/2 years in prison.

Andrew Watts, 35, pleaded guilty in July to one count of mail fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Prosecutors said Watts, a Barbados national who was in the United States legally, used the stolen identities to file 645 false federal tax returns between 2007 and 2011 and to claim more than $120 million in tax refunds.


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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.