Defendant Filed False Returns Seeking Over $120 Million in Fraudulent Refunds
Andrew J. Watts, a Barbados national, was sentenced in Chicago by U.S. District Judge Joan Gottschall to 114 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution of just under $1.7 million for devising and executing a stolen identity federal income tax refund fraud scheme, the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced today.
According to court documents, between 2007 and 2011, Watts filed false federal income tax returns in the names of deceased taxpayers seeking fraudulent refunds. Watts either signed the name of the deceased taxpayer to the tax return, or would falsely list himself as the deceased taxpayer’s representative. As part of the scheme, Watts filed over 470 false federal income tax returns, claiming fraudulent refunds in excess of $120 million, and the IRS issued refunds in excess of $10 million. Watts directed the IRS to either mail the refund checks to an address he controlled or to electronically deposit the refund into a bank account under his control.
“While all taxpayers are victims when criminals file false tax returns using stolen identities, those who falsely use the names of deceased individuals add to the grief and burdens of their families,” said Kathryn Keneally, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Tax Division. “We will prosecute and seek just punishment against those who seek to commit these crimes.”
“IRS-Criminal Investigation has made investigating refund fraud and identity theft a top priority and we will vigorously pursue those who undermine the integrity of the U.S. tax system,” said Richard Weber, Chief, IRS-Criminal Investigation. “Individuals who commit refund fraud and identity theft of this magnitude deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”
On July 10, 2012, Watts pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
The case was investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick J. King, Jr., Northern District of Illinois, and Trial Attorney Michelle Petersen, Department of Justice, Tax Division.