A 42-year-old woman has admitted to stealing mail to obtain confidential information and then using that information to file fraudulent tax returns. The woman entered guilty pleas to single counts of mail theft, wire fraud and filing a false claim in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Jan. 9. She was indicted by a federal grand jury in April 2016 on 14 counts of filing false claims, three counts of aggravated identity theft and three counts of wire fraud.
U.S. prosecutors say that the San Anselmo resident fraudulently obtained the names and Social Security numbers of Marin County residents and then filed false income tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service. The woman is said to have submitted false tax returns electronically between 2010 and 2012. Federal prosecutors say the woman received more than $90,000 in refunds on a falsely declared income of $219,635.89.
When the woman is sentenced on April 29, she’ll face up to five years in federal prison for filing a false claim, five years for stealing mail and 20 years for wire fraud. She could also be ordered to pay fines of up to $750,000. The rest of the counts against her will be dismissed if she abides by the terms of her plea agreement and pays at least $90,952.48 in restitution. The case was investigated by the IRS Criminal Investigation Division and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
The custodial sentences this woman faces reveal how severe the penalties for committing federal crimes can be. Experienced criminal defense attorneys may advise their clients to accept plea offers made by U.S. attorneys when the evidence against them is made up largely of documents and electronic records that could be difficult to refute. However, attorneys may recommend rejecting plea agreements when their clients maintain that they are innocent or federal prosecutors have less compelling cases.