IRS and Identity Theft and Tax Refund Fraud Stories

by Linda Vincent R.N. P.I.


The following are highlights from significant identity-theft cases. All details are based on court documents.

Memphis Woman Sentenced on Tax Fraud Charges
On Dec. 21, 2012, in Memphis, Tenn., Aundria Bryant-Branch was sentenced to 262 months in prison, three years supervised release, and ordered to pay $690,399 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). According to the indictment, Bryant-Branch orchestrated a tax refund scheme beginning in or about 2006 and continuing until approximately June 10, 2008. Bryant-Branch obtained stolen identification information and a stolen “Warrant Book” from the Memphis Police Department. This book listed individuals with outstanding arrest warrants. Bryant-Branch would give the stolen identification information to others, who then used it to prepare and electronically file false tax returns with the IRS claiming refunds without the taxpayer’s knowledge. These fraudulent returns generated either refund checks from the IRS or Refund Anticipation Loan (RAL) checks from the Bank and Trust of Santa Barbara.

Barbados National Sentenced for Using Stolen Identities to File False Claims for Tax Refund
On Nov. 7, 2012, Chicago, Ill., Andrew J. Watts, a Barbados national, was sentenced to 114 months in prison and ordered to pay $1.7 million in restitution. Watts pleaded guilty on July 10, 2012, to one count of mail fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. According to court documents, between 2007 and 2011, Watts filed false federal income tax returns in the names of deceased taxpayers seeking fraudulent refunds. Watts either signed the name of the deceased taxpayer to the tax return or would falsely list himself as the deceased taxpayer’s representative. As part of the scheme, Watts filed over 470 false federal income tax returns, claiming fraudulent refunds in excess of $120 million. Watts directed the IRS to either mail the refund checks to an address he controlled or to electronically deposit the refund into a bank account under his control.

North Carolina Men Sentenced in Identity Theft Scheme
On Oct. 1, 2012, in Raleigh, N.C., Jeffrey Glenn Toohey and Christopher Fleming were sentenced to prison for their roles in an identity theft scheme. Toohey was sentenced to 125 months in prison, five years of supervised release, and ordered to pay a $600 special assessment and $261,354 in restitution. Fleming was sentenced to 30 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay a $300 special assessment and $204,799 in restitution. According to court documents, Toohey fraudulently opened credit card accounts using stolen identities and purchased items using the fraudulent accounts. Further in October 2010, Toohey and Fleming broke into a tax preparation office, stealing over 300 files containing personal information of tax clients. Toohey then filed 2010 tax returns in the names of the clients and directed the tax refunds to either debit cards, which were mailed to addresses which Toohey and Fleming knew, were vacant, or to bank accounts that were opened, using fraudulent and unauthorized information. When the tax refund proceeds were received, Toohey and Fleming used the funds to purchase various items.

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Linda Vincent, R.N., P.I., is an identity theft and healthcare fraud prevention expert specializing in medical consulting and investigations. She teaches corporations, professional practices, and consumers how to prevent identity theft and healthcare fraud. Visit