By Kathy Jefcoats
ATLANTA — Two Clayton County men were arrested Friday in connection with a $15 million scheme to defraud the government, said federal officials.
Kevin Joseph Sonnier, 44, of Ellenwood and Bernardo Davis, 26, of Morrow were arrested Friday and charged with wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to defraud the government. According to the criminal complaint, the men filed more than 15,000 false tax returns in 2011 and 2012 that claimed more than $15 million in bogus refunds.
U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said the two used the names and Social Security numbers of thousands of unsuspecting victims in their alleged scheme.
“They obtained some of these names and Social Security numbers through the use of a website and advertisements that touted the availability of an ‘Obama stimulus payment’ and provided a toll-free number,” said Yates.
However, no stimulus payment actually existed, she said, and Sonnier and Davis instead used the personal information to file thousands of false tax returns that claimed millions of dollars in bogus refunds.
In conjunction with their arrests, federal agents searched two locations, including 2295 Lake Harbin Road in Morrow where it is believed a business named “Sonnier Tax Service” has operated, and Sonnier’s primary residence in Ellenwood. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen H. McClain and Thomas J. Krepp are prosecuting the case.
The arrests are just two of nine for federal officials during a three-week period in January.
Yates said identity theft won’t be tolerated by prosecutors, especially when it is committed in order to steal from taxpayers.
“Identity theft is a crime that can take many forms, all of which take a financial and emotional toll on its victims,” she said. “But stealing someone’s identity — their name, date of birth, or Social Security number — for the purpose of filing a fraudulent tax return causes even greater harm because it can significantly delay the victim from receiving his or her legitimate tax refund, and it costs the Treasury millions of dollars in lost revenue every year. The investigation and prosecution of tax-related identity theft during this tax filing season is a priority in this district.”
All defendants should be considered innocent until proven guilty.