Maryland woman pleads guilty in tax fraud scheme

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | 12/20/2013

One of two Maryland women charged with tax fraud in federal court has pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to obtain fraudulent tax refunds, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General.

Tonia Patrice Lawson, of Middle River Maryland was indicted in June of 2013 by the U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Sheila Anderson-Cloude, a financial management specialist at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, was also indicted.

Lawson faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss caused by the offense, whichever is greater.

According to the indictment, from February 2010 through April 2013 Lawson, who was unemployed, and Anderson-Cloude and others recruited individuals who ordinarily did not meet the threshold to file income tax returns because they had little or no earned income and had little or no withholdings paid into the IRS.

The women allegedly convinced the recruits that they could obtain a substantial tax refund. Lawson, acting as a recruiter, would collect the recruits’ personal information and forward it to Anderson-Cloude, according to court documents. The recruits did not provide any income information.

Anderson-Cloude is alleged to have made up false income, education and dependent information for the recruits, and falsely claiming tax credits to increase the refund amounts. The recruits were then paid out only a portion of the inflated refunds while the two women and other unnamed co-conspirators kept the profits.

According to the plea agreement in Lawson’s case, Anderson-Cloude was involved in the preparation of at least 51 fraudulent tax returns from 2009 to 2011, which generated illicit refunds in the amount of $352,168. Lawson admitted to conspiring to file at least 84 fraudulent tax returns, resulting in a tax loss of $546,785.

Anderson-Cloude is awaiting a trial date.

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