Georgia Couple sentenced to prison for stolen identity tax refund scam

(Washington, DC – Insurance News and Markets) – A couple from Austell, Ga., was sentenced to prison for their roles in a tax refund scam involving stolen identity documentation.

On July 27, Anthony Alika, 42, and Sonia Alika, 27, were sentenced. Anthony Alika will serve 80 months in prison, with three years post-prison supervision; Sonia Alika was sentenced to 21 months in prison and three years post-prison supervision. The couple must pay $26,542,259.75 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In April, Anthony Alika pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and Sonia Alika pleaded guilty to one count of illegal structuring of cash withdrawals to evade bank reporting requirements.

“Anthony and Sonia Alika, driven by greed and a fast buck, lined their pockets by laundering more than $1 million stolen from the U.S. Treasury in the form of fraudulent income tax returns filed using data illegally obtained from the IRS Get Transcript database,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo.  “The sentences imposed today send a clear message to those pursuing similar criminal schemes.  The department, working with the IRS and its other law enforcement partners, will aggressively prosecute and seek substantial prison terms for individuals who engage in stolen identity refund fraud.”

The couple were charged in January with laundering the proceeds from the stolen identity refund scheme.  The indictment alleged that Anthony Alika, along with Rapheal Atebefia, 33, of Austell, were members of a conspiracy which obtained means of identification of actual individuals, including their names and social security numbers and used this information to access the IRS’s “Get Transcript” database.  Further, Anthony Alika, Atebefia and others obtained prepaid debit cards from stores located in multiple states, registered the cards in the names of the stolen identities, filed false income tax returns using the stolen identities and information obtained from the Get Transcript database and directed the IRS to deposit the tax refunds onto these cards.  Get Transcript is an online service the IRS offers to allow taxpayers to order copies of their past tax returns.

To conceal their fraud, Anthony Alika, Atebefia and others used the prepaid debit cards to purchase money orders that they deposited into bank accounts.  The Alikas and Atefibia then structured cash withdrawals of the proceeds in order to prevent the bank from filing Currency Transaction Reports (CTRs).

As part of his guilty plea, Anthony Alika admitted that during 2015, he received money orders from several individuals and deposited them into bank accounts in his and his wife’s name.  Anthony Alika structured the cash withdrawals from his bank accounts in amounts less than $10,000 to evade the bank reporting requirements.  Anthony Alika admitted that the funds used to purchase the money orders were the proceeds of illegal activity, including the filing of fraudulent tax returns using stolen identities.  Anthony Alika admitted that he laundered over $1.5 million.  Sonia Alika admitted as part of her guilty plea that between February and June 2015, she withdrew more than $250,000 from multiple bank accounts she controlled in amounts less than $10,000 to prevent the bank from filing CTRs.

On June 22, Atebefia was sentenced to serve 15 months in prison followed by three years’ supervised release for his role in the scheme.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice.