March 26, 2008— -- A federal judge in New Jersey sentenced a woman to 24 months in prison after she pleaded guilty to charges of filing 30 fraudulent claims for federal tax refunds -- 28 of them in the names of dead New Jersey residents.
U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler also ordered Candy L. Atohi, 37, of Buena Vista Township, N.J., to pay restitution to the government in the amount of $42,537. Judge Kugler waived a fine, concluding that Atohi had no ability to pay it.
On Oct. 25, 2007, Atohi pleaded guilty before Judge Kugler to one count of making a false claim for a refund of taxes from the Internal Revenue Service and one count of knowingly transferring without legal authority the identity of a deceased individual.
At the plea hearing, Atohi admitted she prepared tax returns for the calendar year 2002, using the names and Social Security numbers of 28 individuals who were at one time New Jersey residents but who all were deceased in 2002. The 28 returns sought refunds totaling approximately $108,694.
"What amazes us year after year is what people think they will get away with," said U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Chris Christie in a statement. "Filing fraudulent returns on behalf of dead people is about as brazen as I've seen, and the case is a good and timely reminder of the consequences of tax evasion and fraud."
As a result of filing for tax refunds using the personal information of the deceased individuals, Atohi admitted she caused the IRS to electronically transfer approximately $33,265 into a bank account in the name of her mother.
Christie noted in a statement that the Atohi prosecution is among numerous other tax-related cases prosecuted as the tax season deadline approaches. The defendants have been charged with or admitted various federal offenses, such as evading taxes, failing to file tax returns or preparing and assisting others in the preparation of fraudulent federal income tax returns.