Veronica Dale and Alchico Grant, who jointly ran a stolen identity refund fraud ring that attempted to defraud the United States of millions of dollars over several years, were sentenced to federal prison today, the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced. Veronica Dale, of Montgomery, Ala., was sentenced to 334 months and Alchico Grant of Lowndes County, Ala., was sentenced to 310 months in prison. In addition, Dale and Grant were both ordered to pay over $2.8 million in restitution to the IRS.
In December 2010, Dale and Grant were originally indicted, along with three others, on various tax and tax-related charges including aggravated identity theft. Dale and Grant continued their tax refund fraud while on pretrial release and as a result, Grant was indicted again in April 2011, and Dale was later named in a superseding indictment in August 2011. Both were ordered detained following the second set of indictments and have remained in custody.
On Sept. 14, 2011, Grant pleaded guilty to a total of five charges from both indictments, including conspiracy, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. On Oct. 14, 2011, Dale pleaded guilty to a total of seven charges from both indictments, including conspiracy, filing false claims, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
According to the first indictment, the plea agreements and other court documents, beginning in 2009 and continuing through 2010, the defendants were part of a scheme that involved fraudulently obtaining tax refunds by filing false tax returns using stolen identities. Dale admitted that she filed over 500 fraudulent returns that sought at least $3,741,908 in tax refunds. These returns were filed using the names of Medicaid beneficiaries, whose personal information Dale obtained while earlier employed by a company that serviced Medicaid programs. Dale directed the refunds to different bank accounts that she and other co-conspirators controlled.
Also according to the first indictment, plea agreements and other court documents, Grant admitted that he opened bank accounts to receive some of the refunds and recruited others to do the same. One such recruit opened a bank account in the name of a business into which more than $1.3 million in fraudulently obtained tax refunds were deposited. Thereafter, Grant directed distribution of the proceeds which included having third parties cash checks drawn on the various accounts and remit the funds to him. Grant also instructed individuals to lie to law enforcement authorities when questioned about the checking account activities. Dale and Grant’s co-defendants – Laquanta Grant, Leroy Howard, and Isaac Dailey – have all pleaded guilty, as have two other co-conspirators, Wendy Delbridge and Betty Washington, who pleaded guilty to criminal informations.
The second indictment charged a conspiracy that involved Dale, Grant, Melinda Clayton, and Stephanie Adams. As court documents show, this conspiracy extended from January 2011 to April 2011, when federal agents executed a search warrant at Clayton’s house and arrested her. In her plea agreement, Dale admitted that this scheme involved a fraud loss of between $400,000 and $1 million. Dale admitted to providing Clayton with stolen identities in furtherance of the new scheme. Clayton stored these and other lists of stolen identities at her home. The tax refunds were directed to bank accounts and prepaid debit cards purchased by Dale and Grant. Dale, Grant, Clayton and Adams all pleaded guilty to their roles in the second scheme, as did Valerie Byrd, who pleaded guilty to a criminal information.
“The Justice Department remains committed to protecting Americans from thieves who would steal their identities and use them to commit refund fraud,” said Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Keneally of the Justice Department’s Tax Division. “Those who commit stolen identity refund fraud will be punished to the full extent of the law.”
"These sentences once again demonstrate the wide-spread and destructive nature of identity theft," observed George Beck, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama. "I commend the IRS for their strict enforcement of these violations of federal laws. Our office remains dedicated to rooting out those evil wrongdoers who systematically steal taxpayers’ money."
“Identity theft is a despicable crime that victimizes honest taxpayers and causes immense hardship,” said Richard Weber, Chief, IRS Criminal Investigation. “This sentencing should serve as a strong warning to those considering similar conduct.”
The cases were investigated by Special Agents of the IRS - Criminal Investigation. Trial attorneys Jason H. Poole and Michael Boteler of the Tax Division are prosecuting the cases, with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and in particular Assistant U.S. Attorneys Todd Brown and Jared Morris.