From The Charlotte Observer By Joe Marusak, November 8, 2013
Two Charlotte women were sentenced to prison this week for filing 1,100 fraudulent tax returns claiming $5.1 million in refunds from the Internal Revenue Service.
Candida Figueroa, 42, and Cathy Cisneros, 31, sought the refunds using false tax identification numbers, prosecutors said.
The IRS issued refunds totaling about $1.6 million, prosecutors said. The women arranged for the Treasury checks to be cashed and then deposited the cash into bank accounts or held it in safety deposit boxes. Then they wired the money to Mexico.
To date, $136,334 has been recovered, prosecutors said Friday.
“Figueroa and Cisneros thought they could get away with ripping off the government and honest taxpayers who file truthful and honest tax returns,” U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins said in a statement Friday. “But instead of a pot of gold, the pair found prison cells waiting at the end of their tax fraud rainbow.”
U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn Jr. on Thursday sentenced Figueroa to 30 months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release. Cisneros was sentenced to 37 months in prison and ordered to serve three years under court supervision after her prison term.
All federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.
Figueroa pleaded guilty in November 2012 to one count of false claims conspiracy. Cisneros pleaded guilty to one count of false claims conspiracy in October 2012.
Cogburn also ordered each defendant to pay $1.6 million in restitution to the IRS.
The scheme lasted from January 2012 to July 2012, prosecutors said. Court records show the women obtained tax identification numbers for various individuals using Mexican birth certificates and other documents. Then, using those ID numbers, the women prepared fraudulent federal tax returns seeking refunds based on false wage, income and withholding tax information and claiming multiple dependents, prosecutors said.
Figueroa and Cisneros rented apartments at complexes with clustered mailboxes and then used the numerous apartment addresses on the fraudulent tax returns they submitted to the IRS, court records show.
A third co-conspirator, Ana Portillo, 42, of Charlotte, who also goes by Ana Portillo-Flores, Ana Flores-Portillo, Peladita Portillo and Lety Portillo, pleaded guilty in May to one count of false claims conspiracy. Portillo is free on bond awaiting sentencing. She faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.