March 20, 2015

Three Individuals Plead Guilty in Identity Theft Tax Refund Fraud Scheme

Three individuals, including a former employee of the U.S. Postal Service, have pled guilty based on their participation in an identity theft tax refund fraud scheme.

Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Kelly R. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, FBI, Miami Field Office, and Ronald J. Verrochio, Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Miami Division, made the announcement.

Shawn Hawes, 34, of Miami, Florida, Toni Sophia Yates, 28, of Hollywood, Florida, and Kelly Urseles Roberts, 39, of Miami, Florida, each pled guilty to one count of aggravated identity theft. Hawes and Yates also pled guilty to one count of possession of fifteen or more unauthorized access devices. Roberts also pled guilty to one count of theft of government property.

According to court documents, law enforcement executed a search warrant at a storage unit rented to Yates. Hawes used this storage unit with Yates. During a search of the unit, law enforcement found, among other things, notebooks containing handwritten personal identifying information, including the social security numbers of approximately 600 individuals. In addition, law enforcement found equipment capable of creating false identification documents and credit/debit cards, and actual false identification documents and credit/debit cards. Yates name was embossed on a number of the cards. Inside one of the notebooks was the social security number of an individual who had a tax return filed on his behalf in 2014. The refund associated with this return had been direct deposited into Hawes’ bank account. This individual did not authorize Hawes or Yates to possess or use his personally identifiable information.

Defendant Hawes was arrested for, among other things, possession of stolen tax refund checks issued by the United States Treasury Department. Following Hawes’ arrest, law enforcement began focusing on who provided the treasury checks to Hawes. Law enforcement suspected that this source was a mail carrier because Hawes had referred to the course as the “postman.” Yates called a cooperating defendant and asked him if he was interested in buying more checks from the postman. The cooperating defendant said that he was interested. Ultimately, Roberts met with the cooperating defendant on three separate occasions and sold him a total of nine treasury checks.

Yates is scheduled to be sentenced on May 12, 2015 at 8:30 a.m. Roberts is scheduled to be sentenced on May 13, 2015 at 8:30 a.m. Hawes is scheduled to be sentenced on May 27, 2015 at 8:30 a.m. Each defendant will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga. At sentencing, each defendant faces a maximum of ten years in prison for the theft of government property and access device charges, and a mandatory term of two years in prison, consecutive to any other term in prison, for the aggravated identity theft charge.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI, FBI, USPIS, and United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John R. Byrne.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at or on