Two Detroit women are going to prison for stealing the identities of dead people to file phony taxes in a $1.8 million scheme that was partially run out of Starbucks cafes.
They went to great lengths not to get caught, submitting the tax returns electronically using free Wi-Fi at places like Starbucks and Red Roof Inns, where prepaid air cards were used, the prosecution said.
One of the women, Brenda Knight, got 24 months in prison for her role. Her co-defendant Adreann Turnage, 23, received an 18-month sentence. Knight’s age is not known. U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn sentenced both women Tuesday after they had previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud and identity theft charges.
Knight’s husband, Willie Watkins, 43, was sentenced a year ago to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay nearly $411,000 in restitution for his role in the crime.
Detroit attorney Wanda Cal, who represents Turnage, has argued that her client had very little to do with the scheme.
“My client is very young and naïve. I think that there are a lot of players that the government has not discovered yet,” Cal told the Free Press weeks before her client took a plea deal. “I think (the investigation is) larger than the government is acknowledging, I think there’s more to it than what I even know.”
According to court records, the defendants lied on 2010 tax forms to get more in refunds by claiming Earned Income Credit, Education Credits and the Making America Work Credit.
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SOURCE: Detroit Free Press – Tresa Baldas