(WTVM) - Multiple suspects from East Alabama and Columbus are sentenced in a federal identity theft case that involved local soldiers losing millions of dollars, some during deployments to Afghanistan.
The U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama says eight residents from his state and Georgia learned their fates today for their roles in a $24 million identity theft ring.
They say Tracy Mitchell of Phenix City, who worked at the hospital on Fort Benning, lead the group and was sentenced to 13 years in prison. Each defendant plead guilty.
Five other suspects are from Phenix City - Talarius Paige, Latasha Mitchell, Dameisha Mitchell, Sharonda Johnson, Cynthia Johnson – along with one from Columbus - Mequetta Snell-Quick – and one from Midland – Patrice Taylor. Each of them were given sentences ranging from 12-65 months behind bars, except for Johnson who will have two years of probation.
Prosecutors say the defendants obtained stolen identities from the U.S. Army, several Alabama state agencies, and more – all to file more than 9,000 false tax returns.
"No sentence is too strong for those who prey on our fighting men and women," stated U.S. Attorney George Beck Jr. "War is hell on the home front, too, and the family left behind holding things together must be strongly protected. Shame on those vultures who steal from our military and their families!"
Along with the stolen names, federal authorities report this ring also recruited corrupt postal employees, created sham tax businesses, and developed a sophisticated money laundering operation. In all, they cashed close to $10 million in fraudulent tax refund checks at several businesses in Alabama, Georgia, and Kentucky.
"Individuals who commit refund fraud and identity theft with this degree of trickery, dishonesty and deceit deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law," stated Special Agent in Charge Veronica F. Hyman-Pillot with Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation. "We, along with the United States Attorney's Office, continue to do our part in protecting the sanctity and integrity of the tax system."