Tallahassee, Florida- July 27, 2012
A former state correctional officer has been sentenced to 25 months in prison for her role in a scheme to file false federal income tax returns using the names and social security numbers of state prisoners. The officer, Kimberly Nakia Lewis, 32, of Sneads, and her co-defendant, Christopher Lamont Shorter, 34, of Quincy, Florida were sentenced yesterday afternoon in federal district court in Tallahassee.
Both defendants pled guilty earlier this year to charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, mail fraud, filing false tax returns, and aggravated identity theft. Shorter, who also pled guilty to wire fraud charges, was sentenced to 96 months in prison.
While working at Appalachee Correctional Institution, Lewis provided the names and social security numbers of state prisoners to Shorter, the owner and operator of Complete Solutions Tax Service. Shorter used this information to file false federal income tax returns. The fraudulent returns included false entries concerning wages, names of employers, and tax withholding. Between November 2008 and March 2010, the conspirators filed fraudulent claims in the names of more than 120 inmates, seeking more than $1.3 million in refunds. Shorter established accounts at the Tallahassee-Leon Federal Credit Union, the Florida A & M University Federal Credit Union, and the Florida Commerce Federal Credit Union. Shorter used these accounts to to deposit the tax refunds. When they became aware of the fraud, the credit unions proactively returned funds to the IRS. Actual losses to the federal government totaled more than $153,000.
Shorter and Lewis are also required to pay restitution to the federal government in the amounts of $153,062, and $7,295, respectively.
Pamela C. Marsh, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, praised the work of IRS Criminal Investigation and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, whose joint investigation led to the convictions in this case. Marsh stated, “As this case makes clear, tax swindlers will be vigorously prosecuted and severely punished. We are committed to the pursuit of justice for victims of identity theft and to the protection of our communities from those who scheme to defraud.”
The Internal Revenue Service’s Tampa Field Office Special Agent in Charge James Robnett said, “The jail time awarded in these cases is an example of the seriousness with which law enforcement and the courts view crimes such as identity theft-related tax fraud. The theft of personal information, then used to steal money from the U.S. government, not only creates victims of every taxpaying citizen, it creates additional victims of the individuals and their families who had the identities stolen. The Tampa Field Office of IRS Criminal Investigation has focused resources on these types of offenses. In conjunction with our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, we will continue to aggressively pursue those individuals committing tax fraud with stolen identities.”
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Winifred Acosta NeSmith.