The Department of Justice has announced that one U.S. Postal worker will not be making the Holiday gift delivery rounds this Christmas. Instead, he’ll serve a 97-month prison sentence for stolen identity refund fraud conspiracy. Richard Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division explained that Harold Coley “was convicted by a jury in Columbus, Georgia, in September of conspiring to file fraudulent refund claims, mail fraud, and embezzlement of mail.”
Why would anyone think that they could mess with the IRS without consequences? Those people have no sense of humor at best and are out for your last $20 at worst. And the DOJ isn’t pussy-footing around anymore with people’s feelings or how they had a wretched childhood (that is still the job of the 9th Circuit Court).
But Coley had a good run with his tax refund scheme, amassing $2.5 million since 2012 when he was recruited by the two women who were his co-conspirators. That’s a heck of a bonus when you consider that a U.S. Postal mail carrier in Georgia earns $15.64 to $17.50 per hour.
Hatching the Plan
Keisha Lanier and Tamika Floyd were the brains behind the crimes. Floyd, who worked for the Alabama Department of Public Health, scrounged up names of 16 and 17-year-old kids while Lanier provided phony addresses (all on Coley’s mail route) for tax refunds. Many addresses were to vacant lots, fields, and drainage ditches, but no one seemed the wiser. They did not split the take with Coley, but did pay him a hefty cash bonus for intercepting 1,600 bogus refund checks.
Lanier was the ringleader in what turned out to be a multi-state stolen identity and tax refund fraud racket to the tune of $24 million. You can read all about her unauthorized antics here.
But the conspiracy to become rich off the IRS came toppling down last year:
“Lanier last March pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. She was sentenced Sept. 25 to serve 15 years in prison with three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $5,811,406.”
And with Coley’s sentencing, it seems the bleeding for the IRS has been staunched. For his part of the crimes, Coley now must survive 97 months in federal prison and pay restitution, to the tune of $901,351, to an unamused and unforgiving IRS.
Why Lanier didn’t cash out and flee to a jurisdiction that refuses to extradite is beyond me. Even with a sizeable criminal staff, with that kind of change jingling in her coin purse, what was the purpose of waiting to get caught. We may never know. What we do know is that crime may pay at the onset, but all that extra dough is hazard pay. Once on the radar of both the IRS and DOJ, best enjoy the jet-set lifestyle while you can—because the orange jumpsuits and bologna sandwiches aren’t far off.