Former IRS Employee Pleads Guilty to Claiming $1.7M in Fraudulent Tax Refunds

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A former Internal Revenue Service employee has pleaded guilty to stealing identities from an IRS Service Center in Fresno, Calif., and using them to claim more than $1,745,000 in fraudulent tax refunds and obtain more than $175,000 in refunds from the IRS.

Monica Nanette Hernandez, 41, pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of filing false income tax returns, one count of wire fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft.

While employed as a part-time data entry clerk, Hernandez filed three tax returns for herself claiming excessive federal tax withholdings as a result of falsely claimed interest and dividend income, according to prosecutors. In addition, in April 2010, Hernandez stole 68 tax returns from the IRS Service Center in Fresno and filed fraudulent tax returns using information from the stolen tax returns to claim excessive federal tax withholdings.

“IRS Criminal Investigation has made investigating refund fraud and identity theft a top priority, especially in those situations where individuals with positions of trust commit fraud by taking taxpayer information to file fraudulent tax returns in the name of the stolen identity to obtain a larger tax refund,” said IRS special agent-in-charge José M. Martinez in a statement. “This resulted in significant harm to those taxpayers whose identities were stolen, as well as a monetary loss against the U.S. Treasury.”

Hernandez is scheduled to be sentenced on April 14. She faces up to 38 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, but the sentence is likely to be less under the plea agreement.

This case was investigated by the IRS’s Criminal Investigation unit and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Grant B. Rabenn and Christopher D. Baker are prosecuting the case.

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