Sylvia Benjamin, age 41, from St. Croix, was sentenced Friday in federal court to a year of incarceration followed by three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud the U.S., according to U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert
Benjamin also was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $65,078.12 to the Internal Revenue Service.
According to the plea agreement filed with the court, from January 2011 to July 2012, Sylvia Benjamin and others participated in a scheme to steal money from the United States treasury by fraudulently obtaining federal income tax refunds. The scheme involved the acquisition of personal identifying information of individuals (i.e. name, social security number, and date of birth) used to electronically file falsified tax returns with a designation of refunds to the acquired bank accounts or debit cards. Defendant and her co-conspirators withdrew the deposited refunds, spent them using a debit card or transferred them to other accounts, all for personal use.
As a result of the scheme, approximately $80,403.00 of falsely claimed returns was designated for deposit into Benjamin’s bank account, of which approximately $65,078.12 was actually deposited.
Of 10 defendants charged in the tax fraud scheme, eight others have entered guilty pleas, three of whom have been sentenced in federal court by District Court Chief Judge Wilma Lewis. The remaining two defendants are scheduled for trial on June 7.
The prosecution of this fraud scheme is the result of years of investigative work by the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations, which identified and dismantled a massive stolen identity refund fraud scheme perpetrated in the Virgin Islands and elsewhere, Shappert said.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Ortiz.