A federal grand jury in Columbus, Ohio indicted two men for filing 559 false returns for the 2011 income tax year. Prosecutors say 34-year-old Roma L. Sims of Westerville, Ohio and 31-year-old Robert S. Earthman of Lexington claimed total refunds of $1,312,513.89 by using stolen personal identification information. Prosecutors say the two would steal the identities of people receiving disability and other public assistance. Many of their victims were from Kentucky.
Sims was charged with one count of conspiracy to submit false claims for income tax refunds with the Internal Revenue Service, 20 counts of theft of public money, 10 counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit identity theft, one count of identity theft, 16 counts of aggravated identity theft, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Earthman was charged with one count of conspiracy to submit false claims for income tax refunds with the IRS, one count of conspiracy to commit identity theft, and one count of identity theft.
According to the indictment, Sims and Earthman had a company in Columbus called Express Tax and Accounting. Between December 2011 and January 2013 federal prosecutors say the two men prepared and filed fraudulent tax returns on behalf of others using their personal information, including names, addresses, social security numbers and dates of birth. The fraudulent federal income tax returns generated false income tax refunds from the IRS that were typically wire transferred into one of the five checking accounts that prosecutors say Sims and Earthman opened and maintained in the Columbus, Ohio area. Federal agents say the two men kept must of the money for themselves.
It has been alleged that Earthman provided the personal identification information of more than 75 individuals who received low-income or disability benefits. The IRS reports some of the income tax returns filed during the alleged conspiracy were for people receiving Social Security disability benefits, Commonwealth of Kentucky low-income family benefits or other disability benefits, supplemental Social Security benefits, child support benefits, and Medicaid benefits.
Conspiracy to submit false claims for income tax refunds with the IRS and theft of public money is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Conspiracy to commit identity theft and identity theft are each punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Each count of aggravated identity theft is punishable by an additional two year prison term.
The indictment also contains a forfeiture allegation relative to the forfeiture of a 2006 silver Landrover Range Rover; a 2001 black BMW 325XI; the contents of a bank account held at Key Bank in the name of X-Press Taxes & Accounting; and the contents of a bank account held to US Bank in the name of Simply The Best Tax Service.
IRS Criminal Investigation Acting Special Agent in Charge Kathy A. Enstrom said, “Individuals who commit refund fraud and identity theft of this magnitude and with this degree of trickery, dishonesty and deceit, deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”