Soon-to-be laid off man steals $4.3M IRS check; 3 sentenced to prison

Soon-to-be laid off man steals $4.3M IRS check; 3 sentenced to prison

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Three people were sentenced to federal prison for theft of government funds. 
  • Story Highlights
  • After learning he was to be laid off, a payroll company employee stole an IRS refund check.
  • Johnson and two others were arrested while trying to cash the check.
  • Prentice L. Johnson of Lawrenceville stole a $4.3 million check in August 2016.

Three people are heading to federal prison after they were convicted of stealing a $4.3 million U.S. Treasury check, officials said. 

Prentice L. Johnson, Enobahkare Malik Peterson and Renina Letricia Wortham, who is also known as Renina Simmons-Wortham, were each sentenced to two years and four months for their roles in the theft, Department of Justice spokesman Bob Page said Wednesday in a news release. 

Johnson, 54, of Lawrenceville, stole the IRS refund check while working as a payroll manager in August 2016 shortly after learning he was to be laid off, Page said. The private company hadn’t told Johnson about his upcoming termination, but Johnson figured it out when he saw unused vacation pay on his forthcoming paycheck.

After stealing the check, Johnson asked his 39-year-old half-sister, Wortham, to help him cash it, Page said. 

The Lithonia woman enlisted the help of Peterson, 41, of Atlanta, and another person who was not identified. That person tipped off federal law enforcement officials, Page said. 

Federal agents confirmed the check’s authenticity and stopped payment immediately.

In October 2016, agents supervised a series of meetings between Wortham, Peterson and “cooperators” with whom they believed they would split the money once it was deposited in a new account.

Through the course of their investigation, agents learned Wortham likely received the stolen check from Johnson and they obtained arrest warrants for the three suspects.

Wortham was arrested Nov. 10, 2016, when she met with the person she thought would hand over the debit card and checking account information, Page said.

Johnson and Peterson turned themselves in shortly thereafter after learning of their warrants.

All three pleaded guilty in late January. 

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