Jacksonville identity theft ring busted by IRS

Jacksonville business owner cashed fraudulently obtained treasury checks

By Francesca Amiker - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After collecting and cashing treasury checks from the living and the dead, a Jacksonville woman has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for her role in filing fraudulent tax refunds in a 2011 case.

According to the IRS 42-year-old Katrina Graham pleaded guilty to conspiracy and five counts of theft of government funds.

She now has to pay back more than $366,000 to the IRS for the crimes that occurred over several months in 2011 and in February of this year.

Over just a few months, Graham stole from 44 people, four of them deceased.

Graham owned an automotive repair shop on Beaver Street and used her business bank account to cash fraudulently obtained government checks.

"Ms. Graham used her business checking account to cash U.S. Treasury refund checks, fraudulently obtained refund checks," Melissa Lee, with the IRS criminal investigations office, said.

Lee said the identities on the checks were taken from all over the nation, and the checks themselves were sent to Graham by someone who also worked nearby.

"It was individuals in the Lake City area that were supplying treasury checks to her," Lee said.

From August to December of 2011, Graham deposited 44 checks into her business banking account and withdrew more than $366,438.80 from the treasury checks.

As complex as the scheme sounds, Lee said that there are levels to an identity theft ring like this and each one is important.

Lee said that first you need someone to steal people's identities. Then someone prepares a fraudulent tax return. Once the return is prepared, someone else gets the checks or debit cards with a refund amount on them and finally, someone like Graham collects those checks and cashes them.

"This role is crucial to perpetrating an identity theft scheme. If you can't get the money off the card, what good is it to perpetrate the scheme?" Lee said.

Graham has been ordered to pay back all the money she took, and when she is assigned to a prison, she must report by July 6.

Lee also said this is a good reminder keep an eye out for identity theft and never give out your Social Security number.

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