Phenix City woman sentenced in $3 million tax scheme

A Phenix City woman was sentenced to more than nine years in prison for her role in a tax scheme that used stolen identities for refunds that sought more than $3 million.

Carnesha Alexander also was ordered Thursday to serve three years of supervised release and pay $840,692 in restitution.

She is the second co-conspirator sentenced in the tax scheme.

Robert Walker of Columbus was sentenced to serve almost eight years in prison on Feb. 5. He also was ordered to pay the same amount in restitution and serve three years of supervised release after the prison time.

U.S. Attorney George L. Beck Jr. of the Middle District of Alabama said Walker and Alexander pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to defraud the government and aggravated identity theft.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Justice Department's Tax Division assisted in the case.

"One of the Tax Division's highest priorities is prosecuting individuals such as Carnesha Alexander, Robert Walker and their co-conspirators, who use stolen identities to file fictitious income tax returns and claim fraudulent refunds," she said. "This street crime threatens the very fabric of tax administration and often victimizes the most vulnerable members of our communities. The Tax Division is committed to working with our partners in law enforcement to identify these schemes, dismantle the criminal operations and punish the offenders who view the Federal Treasury as their own personal bank account."

Sometime between January 2011 and December 2013, court records and statements in court show that Alexander, Walker and their co-conspirators used stolen identities to file more than 900 false tax returns totaling a request for $3.4 million. Alexander obtained stolen identities of employees from an unnamed Columbus company and from various sources.

To file the returns, Alexander, Walker and co-conspirators used the names of sham businesses, applied for and obtained several electronic filing numbers from the IRS.

Tax refunds were claimed on the false returns and paid through U.S. Treasury checks. The refunds were mailed to addresses under the control of participants in the scheme, prepaid debit cards issued by financial institutions and deposits to financial institutions connected to the businesses electronic filing numbers. This allowed participants in the scheme to print refund checks.

Fraudulent refund checks were cashed by Walker and his co-conspirators at several businesses in Alabama. Walker also deposited fraudulent refund checks into a bank account that he controlled.

Ciraolo and Beck commended the efforts of special agents of the IRS Criminal Investigation who investigated the case and trial attorneys Michael C. Boteler, Charles M. Edgar Jr. and Gregory P. Bailey of the Tax Division. They prosecuted the case with help from Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd A. Brown of the Middle District of Alabama.