Phenix City woman sentenced to 12 years in prison for fraud

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A Phenix City woman has been sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for leading a multi-million dollar stolen identity refund fraud ring.

U.S. Attorney George Beck, Jr. announced that Tamaica Hoskins was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to forfeit more than $1,000,000 in proceeds from the scam.

According to court documents, between September 2011 and June 2014, Hoskins (the ringleader), Roberta Pyatt, Lashelia Alexander and others used stolen identities to file more than 1,000 false federal income tax returns that fraudulently claimed more than $4 million in tax refunds.

Hoskins obtained stolen identities from various sources, including the identities of employees from a Columbus company. In order to file the false tax returns, Hoskins and Pyatt obtained two Electronic Filing Identification Numbers using sham tax businesses. On behalf of those sham tax businesses, they also applied to various financial institutions for bank products, such as blank check stock. The conspirators directed the IRS to mail U.S. Treasury checks to addresses under their control and to send the tax refunds to prepaid debit cards and financial institutions where the conspirators maintained and controlled bank accounts using the sham tax businesses.

When the tax refunds were deposited into the conspirators’ accounts at the financial institutions, the conspirators printed the refund checks using the blank check stock. Hoskins and Pyatt each cashed the refund checks at several businesses’ locations in Alabama and Georgia.

Co-conspirator Alexander worked for a Walmart check cashing center in Columbus. In January 2014, Alexander was approached by several co-conspirators about cashing fraudulent tax refund checks issued in the names of third parties and in return, Alexander would receive a portion of the refunds. Hoskins and Pyatt electronically filed fraudulent federal income tax returns for 2013 using the personal identifying information of numerous identity theft victims. Alexander cashed more than $100,000 in fraudulently obtained third-party refund checks containing forged endorsements.

One victim described the consequences of the fraud on her and her family, saying that the criminals did much more than just steal money.

“As a law student, a part-time employee and a full time mom[,] you stole time from me, time I will never get back, time spen[t] crying because of the avalanche effect of not receiving my income tax check back which I depended on and budgeted for, time checking my mailbox daily, time worrying about whether it was ever going to come, time explaining to my children how there are horrible people in the world who steal because they feel like the world owes them something. Time spen[t] explaining to our youngest that she won’t be getting her braces this year to fix her extremely crooked teeth. Time explaining that Christmas may have to be put on hold this year. Luckily, we are fortunate to have family and friends who love and care enough about us that in our time of need[,] they stepped up to the plate without batting an eye. We had to borrow money to buy law school books because the tax return was not coming. Financially it was a serious hardship because when you do not have money for necessities[,] it puts an emotional strain on every part of your life.”

Roberta Pyatt pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced in the Middle District of Alabama for her role in the conspiracy on July 16.

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