NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – An Antioch woman was convicted in federal court of using the personal information of Alabama state prisoners to file fraudulent tax returns.
It was an elaborate scheme that went on for at least two years.
The woman, Monique Annette Ellis, doesn’t have a criminal record in Tennessee and since has yet to be sentenced.
Her fake tax return scheme came to an end when U.S. Marshal raided her Antioch apartment.
Eight prisoners locked up in Alabama had no idea their personal information was being used in Tennessee.
“In this case, she received, somehow, and we don’t know how, the identity of eight inmates from the Alabama Department of Corrections and used those names, date of births, and social security numbers and file fraudulent tax returns for those inmates,” said Don Cochran, the newly-appointed United State Attorney for the Middle Tennessee District.
The inmates didn’t receive a dime.
Federal attorneys said Ellis used her Antioch apartment to file the fake returns. During a raid of her home, agents confiscated computers, paperwork with the inmates’ personal information, and Ellis’ personal bank records.
She is alleged to have filed those returns electronically using Turbo Tax software.
According to her 16-count indictment, all the $1,464 refund amounts were identical, with the exception of two that were $21 less.
“There were a number of similarities the amounts were close to each other. The jobs she listed on the tax returns were all similar,” Cochran said.
Ellis was convicted in federal court Tuesday on all charges, eight counts of wire fraud and eight counts of aggravated identity theft.
The U.S. Attorney’s office said this conviction sends a clear message.
“Certainly, we’ll prosecute those cases,” Cochran told News 2. “In this case, it involved theft of over $120,000 and the use of eight individuals that were stolen and used to defraud the government of that amount of money.”
U.S. attorneys say Ellis also used banks accounts with her minor son’s name as well as her adult son, who they said is mentally challenged, to deposit some of the money, and then she wrote checks to herself.
Those Alabama prisoners were not aware Ellis was using their personal information to file those tax returns. They were told about it once the government began their investigation.
The maximum sentence for wire fraud is 20 years on each count, and there’s a mandatory two-year sentence for aggravated identity theft.
Ellis will be sentenced in January 9, 2018.