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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -
Two women have pleaded guilty in a scheme to defraud the government by obtaining false and fraudulent income tax refunds, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
Candida Figueroa, 41, of Charlotte, entered a guilty plea Monday before a U.S. Magistrate Judge to one count of false claims conspiracy. Her co-defendant, Cathy Cisneros, 30, of Charlotte, pleaded guilty to the same charge on Wednesday, October 24. Both defendants agreed to pay full restitution, the final amount of which will be determined by the Court at sentencing.
In September, a superseding criminal indictment charged Figueroa and Cisneros with false claims conspiracy. According to filed court documents and today's plea hearing, from January to July 2012, Figueroa and Cisneros defrauded the U.S. Treasury Department in the scheme by using fraudulently obtained Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs).
Court records show that the women obtained ITIN numbers for various individuals using Mexican birth certificates and other documents. The duo then used the numbers to prepare fake federal tax returns, seeking refunds based on false wages, incomes, and withholding tax information and claiming multiple dependents.
The defendants rented apartments at complexes with centralized mailboxes, and used multiple addresses at those apartment complexes on the fraudulent tax returns they submitted to IRS seeking tax refunds.
Figueroa and Cisneros caused the Treasury Department to mail the false tax refund checks to these specially chosen addresses, court records indicate.
According to the indictment and information presented in court, at least 804 fraudulent tax returns were associated with the conspiracy, claiming $3.8 million in refunds. Of this amount, the IRS issued refunds totaling approximately $1.6 million.
The pair arranged for the Treasury checks to be cashed, and then deposited the cash into bank accounts or held it in safety deposit boxes before wiring it to Mexico. The amount recovered by law enforcement so far is $136,334, the report states.
Figueroa and Cisneros face a maximum prison term of 10 years, a $250,000 fine, or both.
The defendants have been in local federal custody since August. Their sentencing dates have not been set yet.