This sounds like something that is getting a lot of national press. Here is something that was published in Forbes and in the Washington Post a couple of months ago:Two Minnesota men face federal criminal charges over an alleged tax fraud scheme run from prison. A federal indictment alleges that Tanka James Tetzlaff, 39, of Duluth, and Tony Terrell Robinson, 30, of Bayport, were the ringleaders. They each face a count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, plus ten counts of false claims against the United States.
They even managed to collect over $400,000 in fraudulent tax refunds while in state prison, says the indictment. Such scams are embarrassing to the IRS, not to mention prison authorities. They were incarcerated in the Minnesota Correctional Facility and managed to get fellow inmates to provide them with their names and Social Security numbers. That enabled them to file the false returns, the indictment alleges.“The filing co-conspirators had not earned the wages they reported, they did not have income tax withheld from their purported wages and they were not entitled to the refunds being claimed,” the indictment alleges. “The defendants prepared and filed the tax returns, or arranged for them to be prepared and filed, knowing they were false,” claim the charges. Tax refunds were received by check, deposited directly into bank accounts or deposited onto debit cards, and Tetzlaff and Robinson received a cut of the profits, the indictment alleges.
The charges say that they had co-conspirators outside of prison, Carmen Allen, Vanessa Walberg and Deeanna Crist. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, they were granted powers of attorney for the prisoners so they could cash the checks. In total, more than $400,000 was disbursed by the IRS. Allen pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge and was sentenced to four years of probation and ordered to pay more than $22,000 in restitution. Walberg and Crist pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges and are awaiting sentencing.The problem of tax return preparation from prison isn’t entirely new. In the past, some Prison inmates registered with the IRS as tax preparers. It has long been true that some tax return preparers are seasonal workers handling the April 15 crush. But it is surprising to find just how many prisoners—some serving life—have been registered as return preparers with the IRS.A study by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration—TIGTA—said that over 300 prisoners were registered as return preparers, 43 of them serving life. Some of the stories are colorful, including that of Kavin Santos , also known as Steven Augustine. He was in jail but was rearrested for allegedly filing hundreds of tax-credit applications, using phony and stolen Social Security numbers to systematically scam New York State before the state caught on.Authorities claim that he started his tax scam from the infamous Rikers Island Correctional Facility in Queens. He continued filing the tax-credit forms for a few months after being sent to Coxsackie Correctional Facility in Greene County, New York in 2013, court records show. Santos had already been sentenced to state prison twice for burglary. Before his rearrest over tax prep, he was scheduled to be released from custody in January 2016.Some accountants and tax return preparers have a frantic schedule getting through tax season. They may even feel chained to their desks. And these prison tax prep stories suggest that others have an even tougher time getting through tax season.
Prisoners continue to claim bogus tax refunds, to a tune of more than $1 billion in 2012, and the IRS has yet to take enough steps to combat it, the agency’s inspector general reported Tuesday.The IRS stopped most of the bogus claims but still paid out $70 million in bad refunds in 2012, the inspector general said — a drop from the $156 million paid in 2011, but about twice what had been paid in any previous year since 2007.“Since TIGTA first began documenting this fraudulent activity four years ago, refund fraud committed by prisoners has grown to become a billion-dollar problem,” said Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George. “It is incumbent upon the IRS to act aggressively to prevent tax fraud wherever it occurs, particularly behind bars.”Investigators identified a number of flaws, including fraud cases the IRS’s methodology doesn’t catch, long-overdue reports to Congress and a delay in signing memos with state prison officials to allow the IRS to share information on prisoners who request bogus refunds.In fact, just one state — whose name was redacted in the IG report — has signed the final memo allowing information sharing, and three additional states’ agreements are awaiting approval, investigators said.The investigators said the IRS has trouble catching prisoner tax fraud when it involves an inmate filing bogus refund claims using someone else’s Social Security number. It detailed two cases, one in Pennsylvania and one in Alabama, where people who were serving time for tax fraud filed false income tax returns pretending to be other people and claiming bogus refunds.One bank account used by a prisoner had 7,645 tax returns associated with it, claiming more than $30 million in refunds, investigators said.