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Local liquor store owner sentenced for cashing fraudulent IRS checks

George Rowell was ordered to serve 18 months in prison and pay $645,343 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.
George Rowell was ordered to serve 18 months in prison and pay $645,343 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.

The latest defendant to be sentenced in a long-running tax fraud scheme federal agents broke up is a Columbus liquor store owner.

George Rowell, 61, owner of Big O’s Package Store at 4034 Cusseta Road, cashed fraudulent tax refund checks from February 2012 to March 2013, charging his co-conspirators a 10 percent fee, authorities said.

In 2013, Rowell cashed more than 250 checks for more than $645,000, investigators said.

“Despite being warned, Rowell cashed checks in bulk for several co-conspirators even though the checks were not in their names,” prosecutors wrote in a news release. “Rowell also allowed at least one co-conspirator to forge in front of him the signature of the taxpayers to whom the checks were made payable.”

Chief U.S. District Court Judge Clay Land of Columbus sentenced Rowell to serve 18 months in prison plus three years of supervised release, and to pay $645,343 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.

Rowell pleaded guilty in August 2016 to conspiring to steal public money.

Rowell’s co-conspirators already are serving time. In December 2016, Tonya Alexander was sentenced to 37 months in prison; in September 2015, Keisha Lanier was sentenced to 15 years; and in August 2015, Tracy Mitchell was sentenced to 13 years and three months, according to Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney G.F. Peterman III of the Middle District of Georgia.

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