An Atlanta couple has learned the type of painful lesson that “Real Housewives of Atlanta’s” Phaedra Parks’ husband Apollo is going to soon learn: that trying to steal from the U.S. Department of the Treasury — more particularly the Internal Revenue Service, of all places — is just a really bad idea.
Justin Cody, 32, and his wife, Aeshia Wilmore, 24, have been sentenced for their roles in a fraudulent income tax refund scheme where they stole hundreds of people’s identities to the tune of $600,000 in bogus tax refunds.
According to United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates, this what transpired:
From as early as February 2013 to May 2013, Cody and his wife participated in a scheme to defraud the Department of the Treasury by filing hundreds of fraudulent income tax returns using stolen identities. This type of scheme is commonly called stolen identity refund fraud. Cody used stolen personal identification information of hundreds of victims, along with fake wage and withholding information, to prepare numerous fraudulent tax returns, claiming over $600,000 in tax refunds. After the refunds were processed, Cody had the refunds applied to blank prepaid debit cards that he and Wilmore used at various ATM machines throughout the Atlanta area.
On Nov. 22, 2013, Cody and Wilmore each pleaded guilty to count three of the indictment, which is a substantive count of theft of public funds. Cody also pleaded guilty to aggravated identity fraud. Cody was sentenced to serve seven years and three months in federal prison. Wilmore, 25, was sentenced to two years in federal prison by United States District Judge Steve C. Jones.
“Stealing identities of innocent people has become all too common,” said United States Attorney Yates. “The sentence these two received makes it clear that we are committed to exposing and bringing to justice anyone who engages in this conduct.”
Stephen Emmett of the FBI told rolling out that identity theft is growing at a scale consistent with the rise and popularity of social media platforms and other technological outlets.
“As technology grows, as well as social media, we shouldn’t be surprised that I.D. theft has grown with it. People are putting more and more of their personal and biographical information out into the public arena, whether they intend to or not,” he said. “And very smart, but not so well-intentioned individuals, will take advantage of that.”
Veronica F. Hyman-Pillott said, therefore, federal agencies remain vigilant and at the ready. “IRS Criminal Investigation will remain proactive in the investigation of individuals and groups who engage in stealing the identities of innocent people,” she said. “We will utilize every tool available to investigate those who conspire with each other to victimize members of our community for their own personal gain.”
This case was investigated by special agents of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Karlyn J. Hunter and Nekia Hackworth prosecuted the case.