Fifteen More Defendants Charged in Stolen Identity and Tax Fraud Scheme
STATESBORO, GA—Five federal indictments, unsealed today in federal court, have charged 15 additional defendants with their roles in a large-scale identity theft and tax fraud scheme. Each of the indictments alleges that the defendants were involved in using stolen identities to submit bogus income tax returns and to fraudulently receive tax refunds to which they were not entitled. To date, 56 defendants (39 federal and 17 state) have been charged in a joint federal and state investigation into identity theft and tax fraud rings operating in and around the Statesboro, Georgia area. The 15 currently charged defendants are alleged to have operated around the Claxton, Georgia area. The investigation is ongoing.
Earlier this week, law enforcement officials arrested 13 of the 15 federal defendants charged. Federal defendants Santana Lundy, 29, of Statesboro, Georgia, and Katrina Beasley, 32, of Claxton, Georgia, remain fugitives. Six defendants indicted on state charges were also arrested. Initial appearances for the federally indicted defendants in custody were held today before U.S. Magistrate Judge G.R. Smith in the federal courthouse in Statesboro, Georgia.
United States Attorney Edward Tarver said, “Our operation has already resulted in dozens of convictions followed by lengthy prison sentences. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our federal and state law enforcement partners will not stop until the individuals running these identity theft and tax fraud rings within our district are found, prosecuted, and sentenced.”
IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Veronica Hyman-Pillot said, “Today’s announcement exemplifies the intense focus on the rigorous pursuit of identity theft by IRS and our law enforcement partners. IRS-Criminal Investigation has made investigating refund fraud and identity theft a top priority, and we will continue to vigorously pursue those who undermine the integrity of the U.S. tax system.”
J. Britt Johnson, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated, “The additional charges and arrests not only demonstrate the extensive nature of this tax fraud scheme but also the law enforcement resolve to address it. The FBI will continue to partner with its various law enforcement agencies to ensure that this type of criminal activity is firmly addressed and brought to a halt.”
Staci Guest, Director of the Office of Special Investigations, Department of Revenue, stated, “These arrests show how serious the State of Georgia is at finding and arresting individuals committing identity theft fraud. The Georgia Department of Revenue will continue to work with our federal and local law enforcement officials to combat this growing trend.”
Statesboro Director of Public Safety Wendell Turner said, “The Statesboro Police Department is proud of the continued investigative efforts regarding the defrauding of our citizens’ tax dollars. Keeping up this type of pressure over the course of several years will hopefully send a strong message to the offenders that we will not waver in our efforts to deter their criminal behavior, and if they continue this type of behavior, they will be arrested and prosecuted. We are also thankful for our continued partnerships with all of our local and federal counterparts that result in these types of successes.”
If convicted, each federal defendant faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for the wire fraud conspiracy and wire fraud charges, a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for the theft of public money and access device fraud charges, a maximum penalty of five years in prison for the conspiracy to commit theft of public money charge, and a two-year mandatory, consecutive prison sentence for each charge of aggravated identity theft. Each of these charges also carries a fine of up to $250,000.
United States Attorney Edward J. Tarver emphasized that an indictment is only an accusation and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
FBI Special Agent Marcus Kirkland, IRS Special Agents Gwen Weston and Jason Dulin, and Sergeant James Winskey of the Statesboro Police Department, assisted by their agencies’ colleagues, are conducting the investigation. Assisting in this week’s arrests were the United States Marshals Service, the Georgia State Patrol, the Georgia State Probation Office, the Claxton Police Department, the Swainsboro Police Department, and the sheriff’s offices for Bulloch and Evans Counties. Assistant United States Attorneys Lamont A. Belk and C. Troy Clark are prosecuting these cases on behalf of the United States. For additional information, please contact First Assistant United States Attorney James D. Durham at (912) 201-2547.
- AISHIA MILLS, 32, of Statesboro, Georgia
- ANGELLICA ROBERTS, 28, of Claxton, Georgia
- CANDACE HILLS, 24, of Claxton, Georgia
- CHRYSTAL HARLIE, 33, of Statesboro, Georgia
- DEONDRAY RICHARDSON, 40, of Keysville, Georgia
- KATRINA BEASLEY, 32, of Claxton, Georgia
- LATASHA CHARLES, 29, of Statesboro, Georgia
- MARQUITA WATSON, 31, of Claxton, Georgia
- MARTISHA HILL, 41, of Augusta, Georgia
- MARY MCDILDA, 63, of Claxton, Georgia
- MELISSA WHITFIELD, 34, of Statesboro, Georgia
- MONICA WHITFIELD, 33, of Statesboro, Georgia
- SANTANA LUNDY, 29, of Statesboro, Georgia
- STACEY WILLIAMS, 41, of Statesboro, Georgia
- TERRY GORDON, 33, of Swainsboro, Georgia
List of 6 State Defendants Charged
- CHRYSTAL KEY, 40, of Statesboro, Georgia
- ANTONIA KEY, 43, of Statesboro, Georgia
- WHITNEY G. PERKINS, 27, of Statesboro, Georgia
- LATOYA J. WILKERSON, 28, of Statesboro, Georgia
- SHEENA LITTLES, 29, of Register, Georgia
- VICTORIA H. ASH, 43, of Claxton, Georgia