Four Pennsylvanian Men Charged in Tax-Fraud Scheme

Wednesday, January 25, 2012
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Federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment today charging four Philadelphia men in a fraud scheme that misused Social Security numbers to prepare and file false tax returns.

The superseding indictment charged Jonathan Brownlee, 27, with additional counts and added three co-defendants. (Brownlee was intially charged last February with filing false claims on tax returns.)

The new charges said that between 2009 and 2010, Brownlee conspired with his brother, Christopher, 36, Anthony Foster, 43, and Paul Rawls, 53, to obtain personal identifying information of several people - sometimes under false pretenses. That information was then used to prepare the false tax returns.

Jonathan Brownlee was charged in February 2011 with filing false tax returns that fraudulently reported 16 individuals for whom he prepared returns were entitled to receive a $7,500 tax refund under a law passed in 2008 to encourage first-time homebuyers to purchase homes even if they had not paid any federal income taxes in the year the purchase was made.

The indictment said that none of the taxpayers in whose names false returns were filed were entitled to the tax refunds because they had neither purchased homes nor signed contracts to do so, in the time frame established by Congress. (The tax refund was unavailable to taxpayers who had purchased homes prior to April 8, 2008 or who had previously owned a home within the prior three years.)

In addition to preparing and filing bogus returns, Brownlee and his co-conspirators opened accounts at several banks so the refund checks could be electronically deposited into the accounts, the indictment said.

Most of the individuals, in whose names the returns had been prepared and filed, were not aware that Brownlee and his co-conspirators had used their social security numbers in order to file the false returns.

The indictment was the first in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania involving fraud under the 2008 law.

In addition to conspiracy, Brownlee's co-defendants each face additional counts of filing false claims on tax returns and Rawls faces charges involving the misuse of Social Security numbers.

Jonathan Brownlee also faces charges of misusing Social Security numbers and an additional conspiracy count.