Phenix City woman sentenced for involvement in $20M income tax r - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Phenix City woman sentenced for involvement in $20M income tax refund fraud ring

(Source: AP Images) (Source: AP Images)
PHENIX CITY, AL (WTVM) -

A Phenix City, AL resident has received her sentence for her role in a stolen identity refund fraud (SIRF) scheme.

Benita E. Short was sentenced to serve 51 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $116,636 in restitution.

According to court documents, in 2013 Short conspired with others to defraud the United States by filing false federal income tax returns using stolen identities.

Short obtained personal identifiable information, including names, social security numbers, addresses and dates of birth, without the individuals’ authorization. 

A co-conspirator obtained the stolen personal identifiable information from an individual who had access to Alabama state databases and obtained Electronic Filing Identification Numbers (EFINs) in the names of several tax preparation businesses, and provided this information to Short.

Short then used the stolen identities and EFINs to electronically file 326 fraudulent tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), causing a tax loss of $456,853.  She also caused income tax refund checks that were issued as a result of the fraudulent tax returns to be cashed at several businesses in Alabama and Georgia. 

For her role in the conspiracy, Short pleaded guilty in October 2015 to conspiracy to defraud the United States and aggravated identity theft.

In March 2015, one of Short’s co-conspirators, Keshia Lanier, the ringleader of a $24 million SIRF conspiracy, also pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. 

On Sept. 25, 2015, Lanier was sentenced to serve 15 years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to forfeit $5,811,406.

In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Myron H. Thompson of the Middle District of Alabama ordered Short to serve three years of supervised release and pay $116,636 in restitution to the IRS. 

Others sentenced in this case include:

  • Tracy Mitchell of Phenix City was sentenced to serve 159 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to forfeit $329,242, which was seized in cash from her residence;
     
  • Talarius Paige of Phenix City was sentenced to serve 60 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $762,512 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS);
     
  • Mequetta Snell-Quick of Columbus, GA was sentenced to serve 24 months and one day in prison to be followed by two years of supervised release and ordered to pay $199,471 in restitution to the IRS;
     
  • Latasha Mitchell of Phenix City was sentenced to serve 36 months in prison to be followed by two years of supervised release and ordered to pay $513,821 in restitution to the IRS;
     
  • Dameisha Mitchell of Phenix City was sentenced to serve 65 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $440,176 in restitution to the IRS;
     
  • Sharonda Johnson of Phenix City was sentenced to serve 24 months in prison to be followed by two years of supervised release and ordered to pay $440,176 in restitution to the IRS;
     
  • Patrice Taylor of Midland, GA was sentenced to serve 12 months and one day in prison to be followed by two years of supervised release and ordered to pay $28,783 in restitution to the IRS;
     
  • Cynthia Johnson of Phenix City was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay $5,047 in restitution to the IRS.

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