$20M in fraudulent tax refunds earns woman 16-year prison sentence

A Riverdale woman is set to spend 16 years in prison for her role in a false tax return scheme that netted more than $20 million in fraudulent refunds.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Ethel Elaine Daniels used her portion of the illegally gotten funds to buy cars for family and friends, take her extended family on a gambling trip, and go on large spending sprees for clothes and electronics. Officials said the money came as a result of filing false tax returns in the names of more than 1,000 stolen identity victims.

Authorities said that from November 2010 through May 2013, Daniels and her co-conspirators ran false tax return schemes out of Elaine Taxes in College Park and Elaine Taxes No. 2 in Riverdale. After obtaining stolen identity information from people recruited to work as runners, those involved in the scheme would electronically file false tax returns in the victims’ names. False tax returns also were filed on behalf of customers at the two tax preparation businesses.

“This defendant victimized thousands of innocent citizens by misusing their identities to perpetrate her scheme,” U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said in a news release Wednesday. “She also sought millions of dollars in fraudulent refunds from the U.S. Treasury over the course of three years.”

Daniels, 46, was convicted on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft on May 28 after she pleaded guilty. She was sentenced to 16 years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $12 million.

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