Bajan jailed in Chicago


A Barbadian, who is believed to have received more than $20 million in unlawful refunds from the United States Internal Revenue Service, will spend the next nine and a half years behind bars in Chicago.

And Andrew J. Watts will also have to pay almost $2.4 million in “restitution”, the United States Department of Justice and the IRS jointly announced. The Bajan, was sentenced to prison yesterday “for using stolen identities to obtain tax refunds, after the court found him guilty of filing returns with the IRS seeking more than $240 million in “fraudulent refunds”.

“Watts, a Barbados national, was sentenced in Chicago by US District Judge Joan Gottschall to 114 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution of just under US$1.7 million for devising and executing a stolen identity federal income tax refund fraud scheme,” the Justice Department and IRS said in a joint statement.

“According to court documents, between 2007 and 2011, Watts filed false federal income tax returns in the names of deceased taxpayers seeking fraudulent refunds. Watts either signed the name of the deceased taxpayer to the tax return, or would falsely list himself as the deceased taxpayer’s representative.

“As part of the scheme, Watts filed over 470 false federal income tax returns, claiming fraudulent refunds in excess of US$120 million, and the IRS issued refunds in excess of US$10 million. Watts directed the IRS to either mail the refund cheques to an address he controlled or to electronically deposit the refund into a bank account under his control,” they added.

Watts pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft on July 10 this year.

Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Tax Division, Kathryn Keneally, and IRS-Criminal Investigation Chief, Richard Weber, were also quoted in the statement

“While all taxpayers are victims when criminals file false tax returns using stolen identities, those who falsely use the names of deceased individuals add to the grief and burdens of their families. We will prosecute and seek just punishment against those who seek to commit these crimes,” Keneally warned.

“IRS-Criminal Investigation has made investigating refund fraud and identity theft a top priority and we will vigorously pursue those who undermine the integrity of the U.S. tax system. Individuals who commit refund fraud and identity theft of this magnitude deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Weber added. (SC)

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