Alaska prisoners filed 428 false tax returns in identity theft scheme

Published: Sep. 8, 2016 at 10:50 AM AKDT
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An Alaska man was sentenced Wednesday to 92 months in prison for his role in a jailhouse tax fraud scheme, prosecutors say.

Jesse Scott Wilson, 41, was part of a group of prisoners who were conspiring to illegally obtain tax refunds.

Wilson and fellow conspirators and prison inmates William Wesley Hines, 54, Jason Donald Schmidlkofer, 34, and Nick Lewis Thurmond, 30, obtained the names and social security numbers of approximately 210 people. Many of the victims were also prison inmates.

The group then used that information to file at least 428 false tax returns, netting refunds for an estimated payout of $681,258.

“(The) vast majority of Americans work hard and pay their taxes," Acting U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder said. "A scheme to defraud the IRS like this takes money from all legitimate taxpayers.”

“Plus, this scheme used identity theft as its vehicle. In the modern electronic age, identity theft rightly concerns all citizens,” Schroder added.

Judge Sharon Gleason pointed out a need for the sentence to address the severity of the crime and to deter others in prison from committing similar crimes.

In addition to an extra 92 months in prison, Wilson also was ordered to pay $384,892 in restitution.

The other three men who acted with Wilson have all pleaded guilty. Hines was sentenced to 51 months in prison, Schmidlkofer has been sentenced to 56 months in prison, and Thurmond is scheduled for sentencing on Oct. 5.

The investigation also involved a larger prisoner tax refund scheme that included Steven McComb, Michael Sexton, Paulando Williams, and Helen Maloney. Those defendants all pleaded guilty as well, receiving sentences ranging from 28 months to nine years.

Special Agent in Charge Darrell Waldon of IRS Criminal Investigation said that this is an example for just how important it is for all people to safeguard their personal information.

“Beware that would-be identity thieves are constantly lurking and looking for victims,” Waldon said.