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FMCSA Employee Sentenced to Prison over Phony Tax Returns

August 14, 2014

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A former financial management specialist with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was sentenced to prison late last month in U.S. District Court, Baltimore, Maryland.

Sheila Anderson-Cloude received 15 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay over $546,000 in restitution for her role in a conspiracy to obtain fraudulent tax refunds. She pled guilty to charges in February 

From February 2010 through April 2013, Anderson-Cloude conspired with Tonia Lawson and her daughters Kiara Skipwith and Jasmine Thomas to prepare fraudulent tax returns, according to the U.S. Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General. The defendants allegedly recruited individuals who did not owe taxes because they had little or no earned income and convinced these individuals that they could obtain a substantial refund and, therefore, should file a federal individual income tax return.

Lawson, Skipwith and Thomas provided the recruits’ personal information to Anderson-Cloude, who would prepare the fraudulent return during work hours using her FMCSA issued computer, according to a statement form the inspector general’s office. Anderson-Cloude, Lawson, Skipwith and Thomas allegedly misled the recruits by telling them that the refunds they had received were smaller than the refund amounts Anderson-Cloude had actually listed on the fraudulent returns. The "profit" for Anderson-Cloude and her co-conspirators was allegedly the difference between the refund claimed on each tax return and the smaller amount actually paid to the recruit.

For tax years 2009 through 2012, Anderson-Cloude was involved in the preparation of at least 90 fraudulent tax returns said to be based upon the recruits referred by Lawson, Skipwith, Thomas and others. These fraudulent returns generated illicit refunds totaling over $546,000. In 2011 alone, Anderson-Cloude received at least $104,000 in profits from her role in the conspiracy.

Last December, Lawson pled guilty to charges of conspiracy to obtain fraudulent tax refunds while using the personal information of other individuals, without their knowledge or permission.

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