A Mayfield woman who stole personal information and filed fraudulent tax returns in the names of more than 40 friends and acquaintances is going to prison for as much as six years.
Crystal Sweet, 38, was sentenced to two concurrent terms of three to six years in state prison Tuesday after pleading guilty to two counts of felony grand larceny. She will also have to pay back more than $23,000 to the state Department of Taxation and Finance — the same amount she collected by defrauding the tax system.
Sweet was originally charged over the summer with 20 felony counts. At the time, Fulton County District Attorney Louise Sira said only that the charges had to do with fraudulent tax returns Sweet filed in the names of a number of locals. With the case wrapped up, she was able to offer more information Tuesday.
“Sweet had a good little business going,” she said. “She was obviously very well acquainted with the tax system.”
According to Sira, Sweet would steal personal information from acquaintances while attending parties or social events, then go online and file for tax refunds in their names.
She targeted people who didn’t work and therefore wouldn’t be filing for any kind of tax return themselves.
When filing in their name, she claimed gainful employment and changed their mailing addresses so refunds were sent to her.
Sira said it was a smooth and relatively easy system, paying thousands of dollars over several years, but after a certain number of fraudulent returns the state Department of Taxation and Finance Enforcement Division caught on.
In a past interview, Taxation and Finance spokesman Cary Ziter described how the state agency noticed the fraud by Sweet.
Through a combination of human examination and computer software, he said, every tax return is “touched” before a refund is paid out.
“You might be able to slip a few through,” he said, “but eventually our programs tip us off.”
Taxation and Finance verifies each return by cross-checking it with employer paperwork. If an employee reports one income on his tax return and the employer claims a different amount, investigators are alerted.
Sira said so much convincing work was done by state tax investigators that the criminal case moved very quickly.
“[They] really did their homework on this case,” she said.
Sweet pleaded guilty in August.
In all, Sira said, Sweet used the names of 42 people. The prosecution used only the nine most solid complaints, all from Fulton County.