10 accused of $20 million in identity theft fraud

Ten people have been indicted in connection with a stolen identity refund ring, accused of illegally receiving $20 million through more than 7,000 in false tax returns over three years ending in December 2013.

Among those indicted were Tracy Mitchell who worked at the hospital on Fort Benning where she had access to the identification data of military personnel, including soldiers who were deployed to Afghanistan. Mitchell and her daughter, Latasha Mitchell, are also accused of obtaining stolen identities from an Alabama state agency. Keisha Lanier is accused of obtaining stolen identities from the Alabama Department of Corrections. Talarious Paige and Patrice Taylor, are accused of stealing identities through a call center that employed them.

Also named in the indictment are Dameisha Mitchell, Tameka Hoskins, Sharondra Johnson, Cynthia Johnson, and Mequetta Snell-Quick.

According to the indictment, announced today by Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Keneally of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney George L. Beck Jr. for the Middle District of Alabama, the defendants obtained Electronic Filing Numbers in the names of several tax preparation businesses. The defendants applied for bank products from various financial institutions, which mailed blank check stock to the defendants’ homes.

The defendants are accused of directing anticipated tax refunds to prepaid debit cards, to U.S. Treasury checks and to financial institutions, which in turn issued the refunds via checks or prepaid debit cards. The defendants directed U.S. Treasury checks to be mailed to several addresses in Alabama and then obtained those checks from the mail, according to the indictment. The defendants coordinated the cashing of the refund checks by sending various text messages among themselves, the indictment said. The defendants are accused of cashing the fraudulent checks at several businesses located in Georgia, Alabama and Kentucky. In addition to the conspiracy charge, the defendants are also charged with mail and wire fraud, access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.

If convicted, each defendant faces maximum potential sentences of 10 years for the conspiracy charge, 20 years for each wire and mail fraud count, and 15 years for each access device fraud count, and a mandatory two year sentence in prison for each aggravated identity theft count.

The case was investigated by special agents of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation and the U.S. Army – Criminal Investigation Division.

Trial Attorney Michael Boteler of the Tax Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Brown for the Middle District of Alabama are prosecuting the case.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia provided assistance in this matter.