By: Najla Alexander
A Camden County woman was sentenced today to 159 months in prison for her role in a scheme to obtain money through fraudulently obtained refund checks issued by the U.S. Treasury, officials reported.
According to officials, Awilda Henriquez, 36, of Clementon, was convicted on Dec. 9, 2021, of one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States government and steal United States mail, 13 counts of theft of government money, and 13 counts of aggravated identity theft.
Following a 10-day trial before Senior U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler. Judge Kugler imposed the sentence today in Camden federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and the evidence at trial:
Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF) is a common type of fraud committed against the United States government that involves the use of stolen identities to commit tax refund fraud, officials report.
Officials say the investigation revealed that for the 2013 tax year, more than 3,300 SIRF tax returns were filed using the names and Social Security numbers of residents of Puerto Rico, and the refunds were directed to be mailed to a small section of Pennsauken, New Jersey.
According to authorities, Henriquez and her conspirators recruited mail carriers from the U.S. Postal Service as part of the scheme to steal the tax refund checks from the mail.
Authorities say the mail carriers were paid for every stolen U.S Treasury check.
Henriquez and her conspirators recruited and paid “check couriers” to cash the tax refund checks in various ways, including at check cashing businesses in New Jersey, where Henriquez paid the tellers to also participate in the scheme, officials say.
Officials say the check couriers presented fraudulent identifications at the check cashing businesses matching the names on the tax refund checks in order to cash the checks, which the tellers cashed because Henriquez paid them to do so.
The scheme caused $565,091 in losses to the U.S. Treasury.
In addition to the prison term, officials report, Judge Kugler sentenced Henriquez to three years of supervised release and ordered her to pay restitution of $565,091.
U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Tammy Tomlins in Newark and Special Agent in Charge Yury Kruty in Philadelphia, and special agents of the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General, Northeast Area Field Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Matthew Modafferi, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing.