By AccountingWEB Staff
On March 13, the Justice Department and the IRS announced that Melinda Clayton of Montgomery, Alabama, was sentenced to sixty-one months in prison. Clayton plead guilty to conspiracy to make false claims, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. US District Judge Mark Fuller also ordered Clayton to pay $494,424 in restitution.
Clayton was arrested April 8, 2011, on a criminal complaint following the execution of a search warrant at her house that same day, according to court records. Clayton and Alchico Grant were both named in the original indictment. On August 31, 2011, Clayton, Grant, and Veronica Dale were charged in a forty-three-count superseding indictment with conspiring to defraud the United States by filing false claims, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. That indictment also charged Stephanie Adams with conspiracy and with theft of government funds, and named Valerie Byrd as an unindicted coconspirator. According to the indictment, the conspiracy involved using stolen identities to file false tax returns. Dale, Grant, Adams, and Byrd all plead guilty to federal crimes.
According to the indictment and plea agreement, Clayton stored tens of thousands of stolen means of identification (names and Social Security numbers) at her house. The stolen identification came from numerous sources, including private companies, health clinics, and prisons. Dale and Clayton used the stolen identities to file false returns that fraudulently claimed tax refunds, which they directed to bank accounts and debit cards. Grant and Dale would buy debit cards to use in the scheme, while Clayton, Adams, and Byrd all provided bank accounts to receive fraudulent refunds. Between January and up to the day of the search warrant, the conspirators filed returns claiming almost $500,000 in fraudulent refunds.
The case was investigated by special agents of the IRS ‒ Criminal Investigation. Trial attorneys Jason H. Poole and Michael Boteler of the Justice Department's Tax Division, and Assistant US Attorney Todd Brown prosecuted the case.