Woman sentenced to 42 months in prison for tax return scheme

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- A 40-year-old woman was sentenced to 42 months in prison for her participation in a tax return scheme that relied on stolen identities of disabled individuals.

Gezelle Helena Amaechi was also ordered to pay $386,938 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.

Amaechi pleaded guilty on Aug. 20 to conspiracy to commit the crimes of false claims, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

According to court documents, Amaechi and two others used the stolen identities to claim more than $1 million in bogus tax returns from the IRS, resulting in the IRS paying out more than $300,000 in false refunds.

Amaechi and her co-defendants concealed the fraud by filing the tax returns electronically using their neighbors' unsecured wireless networks, directing the refunds to prepaid debit card accounts they had obtained under false identities, and recruiting friends and associates to receive the prepaid debit cards by mail at various addresses.

Amaechi's co-defendants were previously sentenced for their roles in the offense. Shelton Tanner was sentenced to five years in prison and Latricia Williams was sentenced to three years in prison.