The Phenix City man federal authorities called the mastermind of a multimillion-dollar scheme to steal identities for filing fraudulent tax returns will spend 30 years in prison.
William Anthony “Boo Boo” Gosha III was convicted in November 2017 on 25 counts of aggravated identity theft, 22 counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud and one of conspiracy for his role in the identity theft ring involving co-conspirators Tracy Mitchell, Keshia Lanier and Tamika Floyd.
The group filed more than 8,800 tax returns seeking $22 million in fraudulent refunds, of which the Internal Revenue Service paid $9 million, investigators said.
Gosha in November 2010 stole IDs from Alabama Department of Corrections inmates and gave them to Lanier for filing fraudulent tax returns, each agreeing to split the loot. Gosha also stole personnel records from a former Columbus business, which federal agents did not name.
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Seeking more stolen IDs in 2012, Lanier recruited Floyd to the scheme because she worked at two state agencies in Opelika, Ala. – the Department of Public Health and Department of Human Resources. The position gave Floyd access to the personal information of multiple individuals, some teenagers.
Lanier asked Floyd to give her the identities of 16- and 17- year-olds, and Floyd agreed, providing thousands of names.
Gosha recruited Mitchell, whose job at Fort Benning’s hospital gave her access to military identities, including those of soldiers serving in Afghanistan. She used that information to file fraudulent returns.
Gosha, Lanier and their co-conspirators got IRS Electronic Filing Identification Numbers (EFINs) in the names of fake tax preparation businesses, then used the EFINs to file fraudulent returns online and get blank checks for tax refunds from financial institutions. The conspirators then printed out refund checks.
When the banks cut their check supply, the group recruited postal workers to give them addresses on their routes to mail fraudulent refund checks to, then had the mail carriers intercept the checks and give them to Gosha, Lanier, Mitchell and others. Gosha also put tax refunds on prepaid debit cards mailed to addresses he controlled.
From January 2010 to December 2013, Gosha joined a separate scheme in which he took IDs he had stolen from the Alabama Department of Corrections and sold them to Pamela Smith and others, who used the information to file returns seeking around $4.8 million, of which the IRS paid about $1.85 million.
At Gosha’s sentencing, the mother of a soldier who had been serving overseas when he fell victim to the scam addressed the court, saying she got a call from an IRS agent who told her the soldier’s identity was stolen while he was training at Benning.
“My whole family could not believe what was happening,” the mother said, adding that as her son served his country, “we now had to worry about this terrible act by one of our own.”
She had to try to clean up the mess while he was gone:
“As I tried my best to keep composed and handle all of the gruesome mounds of paperwork to get this straightened out with the IRS, my son was then denied his tax refund. This created a financial hardship…. We were too afraid to tell him while he was deployed because we did not want to worry him and we wanted him to focus only on getting home alive and not have to worry about such an atrocious act….”
While sentencing Gosha to 30 years, U.S. Chief District Court Judge Keith Watkins ordered him also to serve three years of supervised release and pay $9,052,049 in restitution.
Thirty of Gosha’s co-conspirators already have been sentenced. Keisha Lanier got 15 years and Tracy Mitchell got more than 13 years in prison.