FRESNO, CA (STL.News) A former employee of the IRS working in Fresno was sentenced today to six years in prison for a scheme to receive tax refunds by filing false tax returns using the stolen identities of at-risk youths, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
On Dec. 12, 2019, a federal jury found Marcela Heredia, 47, of Riverside, guilty of seven counts of wire fraud, four counts of aggravated identity theft, and one count of making a false tax return.
According to court documents and evidence introduced at trial, until 2014, Heredia worked at the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission’s Transitional Living Center. Heredia also worked at the IRS as a Tax Examiner between 2008 and 2014. While working at the Transitional Living Center, Heredia stole residents’ personal identifying information and filed numerous tax returns that included false wage and withholding information, false educational expenses, false dependent claims, and others false claims. Heredia directed the refunds for those returns to her personal bank account, spending the money on various personal expenses. Heredia failed to report any of the refund money she directed into her account on her 2011 tax return.
Many of the residents at the Transitional Living Center whose personal identifying information Heredia stole in order to file false tax returns were young, at-risk adults. Many were former foster children who had aged out of foster care, many were homeless and had nowhere else to go.
“Heredia spent three years taking advantage of vulnerable kids, stealing their personal information to get their tax refunds to spend on entertainment tickets, groceries, rental cars, restaurants, retail shopping, liquor stores, and other day-to-day expenses,” said U.S. Attorney Scott. “Today’s sentence reflects the serious nature of her conduct and serves as a warning to others. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to work with the U.S. Department of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and IRS Criminal Investigation to investigate and bring to justice those who would carry out a tax fraud scheme.”
“The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration will aggressively pursue Internal Revenue Service employees who endeavor to corrupt our Nation’s tax system,” said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “Identity theft is a nationwide problem that disrupts the lives of its victims. When an IRS employee uses their internal knowledge of the IRS to commit tax fraud, it jeopardizes taxpayer trust in our Nation’s tax system.”
“The IRS along with TIGTA uses all its investigative tools to uncover fraud when committed by the public or in this case an IRS employee,” said Kareem Carter, Special Agent in Charge of the Oakland Field Office, IRS-CI. “Heredia’s fraud scheme harmed the United States Government and members of the local community. Today’s sentencing should send a positive message to the American taxpayers that IRS employees are held to a high standard when working in a public position in order to safeguard and instill trust in the U.S. tax system.”
This case was the product of an investigation by the U.S. Department of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and IRS Criminal Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Laura D. Withers and Vincente A. Tennerelli prosecuted the case.