FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS — Alton area cases are among those cited by the U.S. Attorney's Office in a series of prosecutions aimed at fighting tax fraud.
“These fraudsters are stealing from every lawful citizen in the United States,” U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Wigginton said in a press release Thursday. “Stiff prison
terms will help to end these thefts. If you engage in tax fraud in the Southern District of Illinois, we will be looking for you and will put you in jail. I am hoping that the timing of this announcement, just nine days into this years’ tax filing season, will serve to warn and deter those thinking about cheating our citizens – prison time, far away from family and friends, cannot be worth the amount of money you would get from such a theft.”
"Return preparer fraud is a priority for IRS Criminal Investigation and we have committed many resources to investigating and prosecuting cases just like these," said James C. Lee, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Chicago Field Office. "Taxpayers should be selective in choosing a return preparer, and have confidence knowing that person will prepare accurate tax returns and safeguard their financial information."
Examples of the cases currently prosecuted serve to highlight this effort:
United States v. Aisha Wright
Aisha Wright, 33, of Alton, waived indictment and pleaded guilty Jan. 16, to two counts of making false claims against the United States. Wright operated A W Mobile Taxes, in Alton. Potential fraud was detected by the Scheme Development Center of the IRS. Two undercover agents were sent to have tax returns prepared, which were fraudulent. Further investigation revealed systematic preparation of false returns for taxpayers that falsified Schedule A deductions, Schedule C self-employment income, and falsified education expenses for receipt of the education tax credit. Total losses exceed $1 million.
Wright faces up to 10 years in prison, three years supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000 and restitution. Sentencing is scheduled for April 17. The investigation was conducted by the IRS. Assistant U.S. Attorney Norman R. Smith is prosecuting the case.
United States v. Melissa Perkins
On July 23, Melissa Perkins, 33, of Tioga County, N.Y., was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud through identity theft and tax fraud. Perkins has requested that the matter be transferred to the Northern District of New York for disposition. She faces a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison; three years supervised release, a $250,000 fine and restitution.
The indictment charges that on or about Jan. 31, 2014, through approximately Feb. 28, 2014, an unidentified co-conspirator hacked into a computer server of an accounting firm in Alton. The hacker reviewed tax return information of individuals and unlawfully obtained hundreds of individual personal identifiers including individuals’ Social Security numbers. The stolen personal identifier information was then used to unlawfully and fraudulently file federal tax returns using the stolen identities of clients of the Alton accounting firm in order to obtain fraudulent federal tax refunds.
It was part of the conspiracy to recruit individuals to open up bank accounts and prepaid debit card accounts in order to receive the federal tax refunds. In December 2013, Perkins opened up a bank account at M & T Bank at the direction of a conspirator who identified himself as "Scott McConnell" in order to receive money and forward the money on to the co-conspirator.
Perkins "met" McConnell in or about October 2013 through an online dating website. McConnell identified himself as being in the U.S. Army and indicated he would be receiving money and would direct her to forward money to his mother in Nigeria. Thereafter, Perkins received numerous federal and state tax refunds which were deposited into her account.
She would wire transfer the majority of the refunds to Nigeria. The indictment alleges that she continued to receive the deposits into her account and continued to forward the funds to Nigeria after being advised that her conduct was illegal. The investigation was conducted by the IR. The prosecution of the case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Norman R. Smith.