Update: November 1 2013 – The Montgomery Advertiser reports that Vernon Harrison has been “sentenced to more than nine years in prison, three years supervised release and to pay $82,791 in restitution” for the identity fraud conspiracy charges he was found guilty of in July.
Montgomery, Alabama – On July 3, 2013, a jury found Vernon Harrison, of Montgomery, Ala., guilty of one count of conspiring to file false claims, eight counts of mail fraud, eight counts of aggravated identity theft and six counts of embezzlement from the U.S. mail, announced George L. Beck, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama.
According to the evidence presented at the trial, Harrison was a U.S. Postal Service mail carrier who was part of a stolen identity refund fraud conspiracy. Members of the conspiracy used stolen identities to file false tax returns from various locations, including houses and hotels around Birmingham, Ala. and Montgomery. They then had the fraudulently obtained tax refunds generated by those returns sent to debit cards which were subsequently mailed to addresses on Harrison’s postal route in Montgomery. In exchange for cash, Harrison stole the debit cards from the mail and provided them to a co-conspirator. Harrison stole, at a minimum, over 100 debit cards from the mail for his co-conspirators.
As was shown at trial, federal agents uncovered substantial evidence of the conspiracy during the execution of search warrants at locations in Montgomery and near Birmingham, including over a hundred envelopes for debit cards that had been mailed to addresses on Harrison’s postal route. Soon after, agents also conducted surveillance on Harrison and observed him failing to deliver Turbo Tax cards that were in the mail.
“We trust our mail carriers to deliver, not steal our mail,” stated U.S. Attorney Beck. “Harrison abused that trust. Harrison and his criminal organization not only stole innocent people’s identities, filed fraudulent tax returns and received tax refunds not owed to them, but they used Harrison’s position as a mail carrier to steal these debit cards from the mail. This criminal behavior will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Harrison faces up to 10 years in prison for the conspiracy count, 20 years for each mail fraud count, five years for each mail embezzlement count, and a mandatory two-year sentence for the aggravated identity theft counts. In total, Harrison could be sentenced to up to 216 years in prison. Harrison also could be subject to fines, forfeiture, and mandatory restitution.
U.S. Attorney Beck commended the efforts of special agents of IRS – Criminal Investigation and the U.S. Postal Service, OIG, who investigated the case, and Tax Division Trial Attorneys Jason Poole and Michael Boteler, who prosecuted the case.
Additional information about the Justice Department’s Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found at www.justice.gov/tax.