Six people have been arrested and charged in a tax refund check fraud conspiracy that dates back five years and involves an Alabama prison inmate, credit union and bank.
Shermaine “Shade” German, 56, orchestrated the fraudulent scheme from Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer, Ala., where he obtained the names, birth dates and Social Security numbers of other people, often fellow inmates, including some on death row or serving life sentences without parole, according to the FBI.
He used their information to create false income tax returns that contained fabricated amounts of tax withholdings, said federal authorities in nearby Birmingham and netted more than $12,000.
German also created false power of attorney forms, which he mailed out of the prison along with the false income tax returns, according to the indictment. Various other members of the conspiracy notarized the power of attorney forms and used them to cash or deposit income tax refund checks at branches of the $3.5 billion, Huntsville-based Redstone Federal Credit Union and Birmingham-based Regions Bank.
Six of seven people charged in the conspiracy with German were arrested Thursday by federal agents in Huntsville, Montgomery, Eufaula and Mobile, the government said.
The 20-count indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Birmingham charges that German and his co-defendants conspired from January 2008 through May 2013 to obtain payment of false claims for refunds from the Internal Revenue Service by filing fraudulent federal income tax returns in other people’s names. According to the indictment, the conspiracy ring netted more than $12,000.
Charged along with German in the conspiracy were Ronald Webster, 55; Brenda Joyce McDonald, 55; and Yvette Berry Pinckney, 48, all of Montgomery; Marlo Yvette Miller, 46; and Irene King Douglas, 58, both of Huntsville; Cynthia Dianne Ware, 49, of Eufaula; and Barbara Ann Grimes, 62, of Mobile. McDonald is the one defendant not yet in custody, authorities said Friday.
The suspects have been charged with varying degrees of felonies including making false claims to the IRS, mail fraud, attempted mail fraud and aggravated identity theft.