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Four accused of filing fake tax returns using names, SSNs of prison inmates

Post by Stacey Mulick / The News Tribune on April 19, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
April 19, 2012 1:28 pm

Three Pierce County residents and a convicted felon have been federally indicted on allegations they used the names and social security numbers of prison inmates to file fake tax returns.

Kenneth Door, 42; Lucy Anne Hyder, 52; Ruth Louise Branstetter, 47; and Richard Wright, 42; have been charged with conspiracy to defraud the government and 11 counts of filing false claims for tax refunds, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle.

Door and Wright are in custody on other charges. Branstetter and Hyder were arrested today and expected to make their first appearances in U.S. District Court this afternoon.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Door was incarcerated at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla while the others lived in Tacoma and Puyallup.

In 2008 and 2009, the four searched the Internet for companies that had declared bankruptcy and recently closed. They created fake W-2 forms using the names and Social Security numbers of inmates at the Walla Walla prison.

The forms indicated the wages that had been paid and taxes withheld from the inmates.

“Virtually all of these individuals were prison inmates at the time who had not been employed by the now defunct company,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office reported.

Investigators allege the four filed at least 31 tax returns, seeking more than $145,000 in refunds. They received nearly $72,000 in refunds.

Door also faces separate charges of being a felon in possession of a gun, being a felon in possession of body armor and being a felon in possession of an explosive.

The four face up to 10 years in prison if convicted as charged.

Emily Langlie, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said investigators were looking into whether the prison inmates who’s names appeared on the fake tax return had their identities stolen or were involved in the scheme.

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