Three River Region residents sentenced in identity theft, tax fraud scheme

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MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Three area residents were sentenced for their roles in an identity theft and tax fraud scheme in federal court, the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama released.

Mary Bennett, of Wetumpka, Narendrakumar Patel of Millbrook, of and Eugenia Burks, of Montgomery, were part of a conspiracy to fraudulently obtain both federal income tax refunds as well as state income tax refunds from several different states by using stolen identities to file false tax returns.

Bennett was sentenced Friday to 75 months in prison, Patel was sentenced Thursday to 24 months in prison, and Burks was sentenced Thursday to 18 months in prison.

Bennett had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, as well as aggravated identity theft, while Burks also had pleaded guilty to conspiracy. Patel pleaded guilty to forging state securities.

According to court documents, fraudulently obtained refund checks were mailed to various addresses used by the conspiracy, while other refunds were obtained through direct deposits into numerous bank accounts controlled by the conspiracy.

Bennett admitted to being the one responsible for actually filing the false tax returns and also to storing stolen identity information at her home. Some of the checks obtained by the scheme were cashed by Patel, the former owner of a check-cashing business, who admitted that he knowingly cashed the forged checks and shared in the proceeds.

“This case is another example of the punishment that will result from stealing people’s identities and fraudulently filing tax returns,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Sandra Stewart. “If you steal people’s identities and file fraudulent tax returns, you will be caught and you will be punished.”

“These unscrupulous defendants thought they had figured out a clever scheme to thwart the IRS and steal from American taxpayers,” said Special Agent in Charge, Veronica Hyman-Pillot, IRS Criminal Investigation. “As the defendants in this case have learned, stealing from the American people will not be tolerated and you will be held accountable.”

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