Chipley woman among 2 pleading guilty to tax scam

PANAMA CITY — Two people involved in a tax fraud scheme using identities stolen from patients in a Bonifay assisted living home have admitted to 31 federal charges of wire fraud and identity theft.

Jermaine Winters, 39 of Coleman, and Rosetta Presley, 22, of Chipley, pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida to using stolen identities between July 2011 and July 2012 to file fraudulent tax returns in an attempt to steal more than $118,000 from the U.S. Treasury. Their sentencings take place July 1 when they could each receive up to 20 years for wire fraud and at least two years for aggravated identity theft.

Two other individuals, Senora Cotton, 24, and Fontella Keith, 47, both of Chipley, still face charges in connection with the case.

The federal investigation began with a traffic stop made by the Chipley Police Department more than three years ago.

The group’s indictment alleges that between July 2011 and July 2012, the defendants used the stolen identities of assisted-living facility residents, clinical laboratory patients, and others, in an attempt to steal more than $118,000 through electronically filing fraudulent tax returns.

Keith is alleged to have stolen the personal identifying information of patients at the Dogwood Inn, an assisted-living facility in Bonifay, where he worked. Keith is accused of then relaying the information to Winters, Cotton, and Presley, who then filed the fraudulent tax returns.

The defendants also are alleged to have used the personal identifying information of patients from Sun Laboratory Services, a clinical laboratory in the Tampa area, to file additional fraudulent tax returns. The defendants allegedly caused the United States Treasury to pay fraudulent income tax refunds by loading refunds onto prepaid debit cards mailed by various financial institutions to addresses in the Northern District of Florida.

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