Woman sent to federal prison for tax fraud

A Conley tax preparer was sentenced to federal prison Monday, and ordered to pay almost $800,000 in connection with fraudulent tax returns, according to federal officials.

Deidra McClendon, 38, pleaded guilty in April to filing returns with false information, identity theft, and the unauthorized use of another person's Social Security information, said Patrick Crosby, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia.

She was sentenced to 18 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.

U.S. District Judge Marvin H. Shoob ordered McClendon to pay restitution of $784,000.

U.S. Attorney Sally Q. Yates said McClendon used her knowledge of the system to steal from taxpayers.

“Identity theft is a growing problem, given the widespread availability of personal information, and this defendant’s scheme provides a startling example of the ways that stolen personal information can be used to steal money," she said. "Here, the crime is especially egregious because the defendant is a former tax preparer, and she used her specialized knowledge to steal tax money paid by honest citizens.”

The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service.

IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Rodney E. Clarke said of the case, “The citizens of Georgia and the United States can be reassured that [the] IRS Criminal Investigation [division] is absolutely committed to investigating and prosecuting those who steal someone's identity in an effort to undermine the integrity of our nation's tax system."

Yates said McClendon conducted a fraudulent tax-filing scheme, in which false 1099 employer earnings statements were submitted in support of tax returns for various people, some of whom were unaware that their personal information was being used to file returns and get tax refunds.

She also filed a tax return on behalf of her mother who died prior to the tax year for which a return was filed. Her scheme generated several hundred thousand dollars worth of fraudulent refunds, and was discovered after McClendon’s employer, World Acceptance Corporation, conducted an audit, noticed suspicious transactions, and reported them to the IRS.

This case was investigated with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Plummer prosecuted the case.