Andrew Mollenbeck, wtop.com
WASHINGTON – A D.C. barbershop owner has pleaded guilty to charges connected to his role as a ring leader of an elaborate scheme that targeted dead people, drug addicts and people duped into believing they would receive “Obama Stimulus Money.”
Investigators say Kevin Brown, 42, helped run an extensive network of participants who filed more than 7,000 bogus tax returns.
U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen calls the identity theft and tax fraud scheme “staggering,” and one of the largest prosecutions of its kind.
Prosecutors say the fraudulent claims attempted to fleece taxpayers of more than $20 million.
Brown, who owned Classic Kutz in Southeast Washington, occasionally listed the place as the business name on the tax returns, the government says.
Of the more than 100 people linked to the scheme, many were receiving public assistance. But the scope of the operation also included bank tellers and postal workers, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“These conspirators filed fake tax returns in the names of dead people, grandparents in assisted living facilities, drug addicts and prisoners,” Machen said in a statement.
Government evidence purports to show 14 identities were stolen at a single nursing home, five from people who were dead at the time their tax returns were filed.
With the promise of “Obama Stimulus Money,” others turned over their identification willfully.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, the government says Brown’s guilty plea will likely involve a prison sentence of up to 14 years and a fine of up to $175,000.
The investigation is ongoing.