A former tax return preparer Paula Anthony, 65, of Phoenix, Ariz., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Douglas L. Rayes to 36 months in prison for her role in a stolen identity and money laundering scheme.
Anthony was found guilty following trial on multiple counts, including conspiracy, mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft. Anthony was a key participant in the scheme, in which the conspirators stole the identities of dozens of taxpayers and filed fabricated income tax returns to obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax refunds in the victims’ names.
According to reports, she and others obtained the fraudulent refunds through online accounts set up with prepaid debit cards and utilized multiple bank accounts to convert the refund money into cash. Once Anthony obtained the cash, she, or people she recruited, laundered the money out of the United States by wiring most of the funds to Nigeria.
Paula Anthony, owner of FYI Business Services, In early January 2013, Anthony and her co-conspirator, listed in the indictment as T.C., devised a scheme to collect tax refunds by using stolen identities, prepaid debit cards and bank accounts at different financial institutions, according to court documents.
Using the online bill-payment feature, 367 checks totaling more than USD300,000 were issued to Anthony, the indictment said.
The government then sought a judgment of USD341,684, while Anthony denied involvement in the charges against her.
“Someone stole my identity,” Anthony said in an interview with The Republic. “Someone stole my tax-license ID and filed fraudulent tax returns.”
Anthony said the tax returns cited in the indictment were filed with a program other than the ATX commercial tax-reporting software that she used.
According to her business website, Anthony has more than 45 years of tax experience. FYI Business Services focused on small businesses, offering drop-and-go tax service with a 24-hour turnaround.
The Paula Anthony investigation was conducted by the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation and Homeland Security Investigations. The prosecution was handled by Monica Edelstein and William Voit, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, District of Arizona, Phoenix.