Claiming to be Hawaiian royalty, a Pennsylvania woman has become a thorn in the side of the Internal Revenue Service, which has repeatedly sent her refunds and personal information belonging to the rightful heir. In the latest blunder, the IRS sent Abigail Roberts a $2.1 million tax refund that should have gone to Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike Kawananakoa.
Roberts, 61, a cafeteria worker, filed a tax return using Kawananakoa's Social Security number and received the $2.1 million tax refund of money either Kawananakoa or her estate had paid the IRS in anticipation of taxes due. Because Roberts' return was the first to be filed using the Social Security number, she received the refund, even though she claimed income of just $4,715, and an earned income credit of $371 in a joint return filed on behalf of herself and her disabled husband.
When the funds were deposited, wary bank employees, aware of Roberts' history of claiming to be the real heir to the Bishop and Campbell estates in her native Hawaii, notified the IRS. The IRS has recovered all but $100,000 of the refund from the Roberts and is suing to get back the remainder.
"I know I am" a princess, she firmly told Knight Ridder Newspapers, seated last week at her cluttered dining-room table with a thick file folder in her hands, filled with legal pleadings and correspondence relating to her claims of royalty. Kawananakoa, 73, is recognized as an heir and legal representative of two wealthy estates, the Bishop and Campbell estates, federal authorities told Knight Ridder.
The mistake by the IRS sheds the light on just how easy it can be to get one by the taxman.
"An erroneous refund of this magnitude is a rare occurrence," IRS spokesman Bill Cressman, told Knight Ridder. But a source close to the case told Knight Ridder that the IRS should have avoided this costly mistake, especially when Roberts has a past record of trying to lay claim to Kawananakoa's estate.
"There were 50 million red flags," the source said, referring to Abigail Roberts' decade-long history of run-ins with federal tax collectors, which include a 2001 acquittal of tax-refund fraud totaling $34,000.