District of Columbia Woman Sentenced to 63 Months in Prison For Her Role in Scheme That Used Stolen Identities To Fraudulently Seek Tax Refunds

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Wide-Ranging Operation Filed Over 12,000 Fraudulent Tax Returns Seeking More Than $42 Million

WASHINGTON – A District of Columbia woman was sentenced today to 63 months in prison for her involvement in a scheme to fraudulently obtain millions of dollars in income tax refunds, announced U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips; Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division; Special Agent in Charge Kimberly Lappin of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Washington D.C. Field Office; Inspector in Charge Robert B. Wemyss of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Washington Division, and Assistant Inspector General for Investigations John L. Phillips of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Tarkara Cooper, 34, was convicted by a jury on Feb. 17, 2017, for conspiring to commit theft of government funds and defraud the United States and theft of public money. Two of her co-defendants, Tony Bryant, 55, and his son, Brian Bryant, 29, both of Clinton, Md., were also convicted at trial and are awaiting sentencing.

Cooper was part of a massive sophisticated stolen identity refund fraud scheme that involved a network of more than 130 people, many of whom were receiving public assistance. Conspirators fraudulently claimed refunds for tax years 2005 through 2012, often in the names of people whose identities had been stolen, including the elderly, people in assisted living facilities, drug addicts and incarcerated prisoners. Returns were also filed in the names of, and refunds were issued to, willing participants in the scheme. The returns filed listed more than 400 “taxpayer” addresses located in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. According to court documents, the overall case involved the filing of at least 12,000 fraudulent federal income tax returns that sought at least $42 million in refunds.

Conspirators played various roles in the scheme: stealing identifying information; allowing their personal identifying information to be used; creating and mailing fraudulent federal tax returns; allowing their addresses to be used for receipt of the refund checks; cashing the refund checks; providing bank accounts into which the refund checks were deposited and forging endorsements of identity theft victims on the refund checks. The false returns typically reported inflated or fictitious income from a sole proprietorship and claimed phony dependents to generate an Earned Income Tax Credit, a refundable federal income tax credit for working families with low to moderate incomes. To date, approximately two dozen participants in this scheme have pleaded guilty.

According to the evidence presented at trial, from approximately April 2010 through June 2012, Cooper and the Bryants participated in claiming $4,959,310 in fraudulent refunds, of which the IRS paid out approximately $2,285,717. Cooper agreed to allow her residence to be used for the delivery of tax refund checks, and was paid by a co-conspirator when she provided the tax refund checks to him. The Bryants deposited refund checks fraudulently obtained by others into accounts that they controlled.

In addition to the term of prison imposed, U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer ordered Cooper to serve three years of supervised release and to pay $1,926,958 in restitution to the IRS. She also ordered a forfeiture money judgment of $16,750.

U.S. Attorney Phillips, Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg, Special Agent in Charge Lappin, Inspector in Charge Wemyss, and Assistant Inspector General Phillips commended the special agents who conducted the investigation and acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Columbia, including former Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri L. Schornstein; Assistant U.S. Attorney Chrisellen Kolb; Paralegal Specialists Jessica Mundi, Aisha Keys, and Donna Galindo; former Paralegal Specialist Julie Dailey; Litigation Technology Specialist Ron Royal; Investigative Analysts William Hamann and Zachary McMenamin, and Victim/Witness Advocate Tonya Jones. They also expressed appreciation for the work of Trial Attorneys Jeffrey B. Bender, Thomas F. Koelbl, and Jessica Moran of the Tax Division, who worked on the case.

Finally, they commended the work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ellen Chubin Epstein and Michelle Bradford of the District of Columbia’s Fraud and Public Corruption Section and Trial Attorney Kimberly G. Ang of the Tax Division, who prosecuted the case, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane Lucas, who assisted with forfeiture issues.

Additional information about the Tax Division’s enforcement efforts can be found on the division’s website.

Florida Businessman Sentenced to Prison for Conspiring to Commit Tax and Bank Fraud

Monday, July 17, 2017

Concealed Approximately $2.5 Million in Secret Belize Accounts

A Florida businessman was sentenced today to 57 months in prison in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida for conspiring to commit tax and bank fraud, announced Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.

According to documents filed with the court, Casey Padula, 48, of Port Charlotte, was the sole shareholder of Demandblox Inc., a marketing and information technology business. Padula conspired with others to move funds for his benefit from Demandblox to offshore accounts in Belize and disguised these transfers as business expenses in Demandblox’s corporate records. Padula created two offshore companies in Belize: Intellectual Property Partners Inc. (IPPI) and Latin American Labor Outsourcing Inc. (LALO). He opened and controlled bank accounts in the names of these entities at Heritage International Bank & Trust Limited (Heritage Bank), a financial institution located in Belize. From 2012 through 2013, Padula caused periodic payments to be sent from Demandblox to his accounts at Heritage Bank and deposited approximately $2,490,688. Padula used the funds to pay for personal expenses and purchase significant personal assets. However, he falsely recorded these payments in Demandblox’s corporate books as intellectual property rights or royalty fees and deducted them as business expenses on Demandblox’s 2012 and 2013 corporate tax returns. As a result of these false deductions, Padula caused a tax loss of more than $728,000.

Padula also conspired with investment advisors Joshua VanDyk and Eric St-Cyr at Clover Asset Management (CAM), a Cayman Islands investment firm, to open and fund an investment account that he would control, but that would not be in his name. Heritage Bank had an account at CAM in its name and its clients could get a subaccount through Heritage Bank that would not be in the client’s name but rather would be a numbered account. Padula transferred $1,000,080 from the IPPI bank account at Heritage Bank in Belize to CAM to fund a numbered account that concealed his financial interest in it. Padula failed to disclose this account to the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) despite being required to do so under the law.

In addition to the tax fraud, Padula also conspired with others to commit bank fraud. Padula had a mortgage on his Port Charlotte, Florida home of approximately $1.5 million with Bank of America (BoA). In 2012, he sent a letter to the bank stating that he could no longer repay his loan. At the same time, Padula provided Robert Robinson III, 43, who acted as a nominee buyer, with more than $625,000 from his IPPI bank account in Belize to fund a short sale of Padula’s home. Padula and Robinson signed a contract, which falsely represented that the property was sold through an “arms-length transaction,” and agreed that Padula would not be permitted to remain in the property after the sale. Padula in fact never moved from his home and less than two months after the closing, Robinson conveyed it back to Padula by transferring ownership to one of Padula’s Belizean entities for $1. Robinson was also sentenced today to five years of probation for signing a false Form HUD-1 in connection with his role in the scheme.

“Casey Padula used secret numbered bank accounts, foreign shell companies and phony deductions to hide millions and evade U.S. taxes,” said Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg. “His 57 month sentence today makes clear that there is no place safe in the world for tax cheats to hide their money and feel secure that the Department of Justice and the IRS will not uncover their scheme and hold them fully accountable.”

“As Mr. Padula has learned, using shell companies and offshore accounts is not tax planning; it’s tax fraud,” said Chief Don Fort of IRS Criminal Investigation (CI). “The use of sophisticated international financial transactions does not prevent IRS CI from following the trail of money back to the person breaking the law. In conjunction with our law enforcement partners, we will continue our ongoing efforts to pursue individuals who use these offshore schemes to circumvent the law.”

In addition to the term of prison imposed by U.S. District Court Judge Sherri Polster Chappell, Padula was ordered to serve three years of supervised release and to pay a fine of $100,000 and to pay restitution of $728,609 to the IRS and to BoA in the amount of $739,459.90. He was remanded into custody.

Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg thanked special agents of IRS CI, who conducted the investigation, and Assistant Chiefs Todd Ellinwood and Caryn Finley of the Tax Division, who prosecuted this case. Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg also thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Middle District of Florida for its assistance.

Additional information about the Tax Division’s enforcement efforts can be found on the division’s website.

Michigan Real Estate Businessman Sentenced to Prison for Obstructing the Internal Revenue Laws and Bank Fraud

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Michigan business owner was sentenced to serve a year and a day in prison today for obstructing and impeding the internal revenue laws and committing bank fraud, announced Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.

According to documents filed with the court, Richard Pierce filed fraudulent 2004 through 2013 individual income tax returns. Those returns failed to report more than $9 million in gross business receipts that several of his real estate businesses earned, including Phoenix Real Estate Company, Phoenix Preferred Properties LLC, Detroit Matrix, First Metro Properties LLC, First Metro Real Estate Services LLC, Phoenix Office Plaza-II LLC, Rosedale/Grandmont Properties LLC, and RFP Ventures LLC. As a result of those fraudulent filings, Pierce caused a tax loss of more than $400,000.

In 2007, Pierce also committed bank fraud by submitting a fraudulent loan application to a mortgage lender on which he failed to disclose that the buyer of a residential property was receiving a kickback from the seller.

In addition to the term of prison imposed, Pierce was ordered to serve two years of supervised release and to pay restitution to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the amount of which will be determined at a later date. Pierce pleaded guilty in February 2015.

Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg commended special agents of IRS Criminal Investigation, who conducted the investigation, and Trial Attorneys Mark McDonald and Christopher O’Donnell of the Tax Division, who prosecuted the case. Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg also thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan for their substantial assistance.

Additional information about the Tax Division’s enforcement efforts can be found on the division’s website.