St. Louis women behind tax refund scheme plead guilty to stealing millions

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by Chris Nagus / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on April 29, 2013 at 11:08 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 15 at 1:08 PM

(KMOV) -- On Monday, Tania Henderson pleaded guilty to an elaborate tax refund scheme, but not before living it up victims' dimes.  She and her friends bought luxury cars and lived in a beautiful Florida home with a pool complete with a waterfall, all courtesy of the taxpayers.  

A network of St. Louis scammers got together to start making hundreds of thousands of dollars by filing phony tax returns for dead people.
 
News 4 spoke to U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan about this case.  The case started to come together with the arrest of Patrina Taylor.  Callahan told Chris Nagus “she was attempting to cash a refund check and used a fake ID to do it.” 
 
She was arrested in Creve Coeur for trying to cash a dead person’s tax refund.
 
Taylor supposedly lives in a Florissant apartment building but neighbors say she is not around anymore.
 
She will soon head to prison after she pleaded guilty in the scheme.  But a couple of her friends, Tania Henderson and Dwayne Johnson, were still living the high life down in Tampa.
 
But after Patrina Taylor was arrested, federal agents discovered her bogus tax returns were filed from a computer inside a Tampa home; the home of a couple of her friends, Tania Henderson and Dwayne Johnson.
 
They also figured out that Taylor was old pals with Henderson from her time in St. Louis.
 
So News 4’s Chris Nagus headed to Tampa to track down the ringleaders of this scheme. As he was watching outside the home a man pulled up, turns out it was “Bob the Landlord.”
 
Bob said Tania and Dewayne were great tenants at first, Dewayne claimed to be a poker player and Tania a hairdresser, but they fell behind on the rent.  Bob was also shocked to hear that the IRS had raided the house he owned.
 
According to federal investigators, some 200 phony tax refunds were filed from the computer inside the Tampa home, totaling $1.4 million. Some of those checks were mailed to St. Louis.
 
Scheme like this do not always target the dead.  Joann Ebel of Belleville is a victim of identity theft.
 Earlier this month, she tried filing her taxes only to discover someone already filed on her behalf using her social security number. 
 
 She is not alone; according to U.S. Attorney Callahan he has “seen as much as $5 billion is lost to ID theft on fraudulent returns.”
 
The IRS has stepped up enforcement of these cases.  Reports show IRS investigators stopped up to $20 billion in phony returns in 2012, up from $14 billion last year.
 
On Monday morning, Tania Henderson pled guilty to embezzlement and stealing social security numbers.  News 4’s Chris Nagus tried to speak with her outside the courthouse, but she refused to speak about her case.
 
Now that she’s pled guilty, she faces somewhere between two and ten years in prison.   She will be sentenced in July.  The IRS says to combat this issue; people should file their taxes early to make sure no one else can file for you.  They also say don’t store your tax returns on a hard drive that can be hacked.  
 

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