A former District of Columbia tax office manager has pleaded guilty to running a scam that resulted in nearly $50 million in fake property tax refund checks being issued to her and her associates.

Harriette Walters, 51, faces up to 18 years in prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud, money laundering and other charges, according to The Washington Post. She allegedly masterminded a scheme that went undetected by auditors at the tax office for nearly two decades. Walters gave lavish gifts to other employees in the district government tax office to help cover up the scam. Ten other defendants have already pleaded guilty.

Walters described how she had learned the basics of the scam from other employees in the tax office when she began working there in 1981. She began stealing tax refunds in 1989, adding other elements to the scam. The office would issue paperwork to back up the phony property tax refund claims, and names of payees would be erased and replaced. A bank employee who received the deposits was part of the scam.

Walters said she would make restitution, in part by forfeiting three homes and items such as a Mercedes, designer handbags, fake Faberge eggs and a Barbie doll collection that she bought on shopping sprees with the proceeds of the scam. However, much of the money was spent on gambling junkets in Las Vegas and Atlantic City and may never be recovered.

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