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Statesboro suspects arrested in identity fraud scheme

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WTOC was on hand as suspects were processed at the Bulloch County Sheriff's Office Wednesday morning. Look for further details later Wednesday on THE News.

From the U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Georgia:

STATESBORO, GA:  The federal grand jury sitting in Savannah, Georgia returned six indictments yesterday charging 12 defendants with 115 violations of federal law involving fraudulent tax returns.  The federal crimes charged in these indictments range from a conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service to identity theft from medical records.  All of these indictments allege that the defendants illicitly obtained personal identifiers, such as names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers, and used these means of identification to prepare and submit fraudulent tax returns in order to obtain tax refunds which were then converted to the defendants' use. 

 Based on these federal charges and related state crimes, law enforcement officials are arresting 21 individuals today in Georgia, one defendant in Ohio, and one defendant in Florida, who are listed below.  These arrests are part of the same long-term investigation which led to multiple search warrants being executed in Statesboro, Georgia in September 2012.  Initial federal court appearances for the federally indicted defendants who were arrested in Statesboro, Georgia are scheduled for April 4, 2013 in Savannah, Georgia.

United States Attorney Edward J. Tarver said, "These indictments and arrests demonstrate the commitment of the United States Attorney's Office to protecting the privacy of medical records and the hard-earned money of honest taxpayers.  While April 15th is traditionally seen as the end of tax season, this investigation is ongoing.  Our law enforcement partners will continue to trace electronically-filed fraudulent tax returns to track down these identity thieves and put them in handcuffs."

            IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Veronica Hyman-Pillot said, "Today's announcement exemplifies IRS Criminal Investigation's intense focus and rigorous pursuit of perpetrators of identity theft and refund fraud.  IRS is extremely grateful for the cooperation and assistance we have received from our partners at the local, state and federal level. Be assured that IRS Criminal Investigation, with our law enforcement partners, will continue to be proactive in the investigation of those individuals who engage in similar behavior."

  Mark F. Giuliano, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated, "Today's extensive joint law enforcement actions resulting in almost two dozen arrests demonstrates the growing problem involving tax refund related fraud and, more importantly, the growing law enforcement response to address it.  The FBI will continue to work with its various law enforcement partners, to include providing additional resources, to disrupt such groups engaged in these types of tax fraud activities."

 Statesboro Director of Public Safety Wendell Turner said, "The Statesboro Police Department has been working with our local and federal counterparts to apprehend the persons responsible for defrauding the government and individuals through a variety of criminal schemes. We are very proud of these partnerships and the results they yield for our citizens. This investigation is just another example of everyone working together, sharing resources, information and expertise for the common good of our  community."

  If convicted, each federal defendant faces a maximum penalty of twenty years imprisonment for the conspiracy charge, twenty years imprisonment for each count of filing fraudulent tax returns, ten years imprisonment for the charge of misusing medical records, and a two-year mandatory, consecutive prison sentence for each charge of aggravated identity theft.  Each of these charges also carries a fine of up to $250,000.

 United States Attorney Edward J. Tarver emphasized that an indictment is only an accusation and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  

 FBI Special Agent Marcus Kirkland, IRS Special Agent Gwen Weston, and SPD Sgt. James Winskey, assisted by their agencies' colleagues, are conducting the investigation which led to these indictments and arrests.  Also assisting in today's arrests are the U.S. Secret Service, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia State Probation Office, and the sheriff's offices for Bulloch and Richmond counties.  Assistant United States Attorneys David Stewart and Lamont A. Belk are the federal prosecutors in these cases.  For additional information, please contact First Assistant United States Attorney James D. Durham at (912) 341-7842.

List of 12 Federal Defendants with their age and current residence

ERICA BALDWIN, 31, of Statesboro, Georgia 

TRACY DENSON, 44, of Statesboro, Georgia

SHAKITA EASON, 30, of Statesboro, Georgia

YOLANDA EDMOND, 36, of Statesboro, Georgia

GLORIA EVANS, 44, of Statesboro, Georgia

JOSHUA MINCEY, 20, of Statesboro, Georgia

PORSCHE PINKNEY, 19, of Augusta, Georgia

DWAN SCOTT, 32, of Statesboro, Georgia

JENNA SCOTT, 28, of Jacksonville, Florida

GREGORY SMITH, 21, of Statesboro, Georgia

TIDAESHA TAYLOR, 27, of College Park, Georgia

ANDREA WEBB, 31,of Register, Georgia

List of 11 Individuals Arrested on State Warrants with their age and current residence

SANTRAVIS JERROD BROWN, 23, of Statesboro, Georgia

REGINALD RAYNARD ELLISON, 29, of Statesboro, Georgia

SANCHEZ ORTEGA HARDEN, 28, of Statesboro, Georgia

CHRYSTAL N. HARLIE, 32, of Statesboro, Georgia

VICTORIA QUINN JOHNSON (BALDWIN), 28, of Statesboro, Georgia

SEAN LEE, 34, of Statesboro, Georgia

MYRON KELSEY RAWLS, 30, of Statesboro, Georgia

VERA RICHMOND, 69, of Statesboro, Georgia

LANIKA LOYONDA WALDEN (MINCEY), 37, of Statesboro, Georgia

MELISSA SHANTEL WHITFIELD, 33, of Statesboro, Georgia

LASHARETT GENET WILKERSON, 30, of Statesboro, Georgia


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