Columbus tax preparers plead guilty for identity theft and income tax fraud

MACON, Ga. – United States Attorney G.F. Peterman, IIII announced that 37-year-old Michelle Simmons of Columbus and 36-year-old LaRae Townsend of Orlando, Florida each pled guilty Tuesday to one count of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of filing false and fictitious claims.

According to facts stipulated in the plea agreement, from January 1, 2011, to March 1, 2014, Simmons was employed as a tax preparer for a local tax office and C&C Bill and Tax Services in Phenix City. Townsend provided names and social security numbers, obtained from a variety of sources. Simmons then submitted around 557 fraudulent income tax returns to the IRS using an Electronic Filing Identification Number. False claims were filed with the IRS in the amount of $924,123. The total number that the government lost was $419,139.

“Crimes of this nature produce two separate groups of victims. First are those whose identities are stolen and who are then forced to go through the embarrassment and inconvenience of trying to straighten out all the attendant problems this causes in their lives. The second set of victims are the citizens of the United States, who stood to lose almost $1,000,000 had this scheme not been uncovered through the fine investigative work of the IRS and the Harris County Sheriff’s Department, says United States Attorney Peterman.

Both Simmons and Townsend will face a maximum sentence of thirty years imprisonment, a fine up to $1,000,000, or both on the wire fraud charges and up to five years and a $250,000 fine as to the false statement charges. Sentencing will begin in sixty days.


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