Vontia Jones, 39, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $2,319,278 in restitution for engaging in real estate fraud by purporting to sell properties to buyers using fraudulent documents and obtaining the personal identifying information of people and using that information to file more than 900 fraudulent tax returns with the IRS, netting her over $2,319,000 in fraudulent refunds.
The defendant pleaded guilty in August 2019 to more than 30 fraud charges, including conspiracy to make false claims to the IRS; making, and aiding and abetting the making of false claims to the IRS; wire fraud; and aggravated identity theft. Jones operated a business that she identified by various names including “Jones Tax Service,” “Earned Income Credit Unit,” “EIC Unit,” and “Eelysium,” out of her home in the 1400 block of West Cayuga Street, Philadelphia for a period of roughly seven years.
Jones also organized and operated a scheme to file phony deeds for multiple residential properties in Philadelphia, purporting to transfer ownership of the houses in order to sell them for a profit. The defendant would research homes on real estate websites, typically targeting those where the owner had died or moved away, and would charge several thousand dollars to sell someone else one of these houses that she “deeded up.”
Together with her co-conspirators, Jones solicited the personal information of individuals and their dependents under the guise of getting them “tax money,” even if they never worked. Jones designed flyers advertising her services that stated: “Don’t you deserve some income tax money too? $750 [per child] welfare social security unemployment disability even if you never had a job.” Each of the returns submitted to the IRS was submitted by the defendant or her conspirators as self-prepared, as if it had been done by the individual taxpayer whose information had been stolen.
Together, they filed or directed others to file over 900 fraudulent tax returns claiming fictious self-employment income resulting in tax refund payouts by the IRS of more $2,319,000.
United States Attorney William M. McSwain made the announcement.
In addition to the tax return scheme, “Jones’ greed impacted the lives of many hundreds of victims, and her shameful actions had severe consequences for these innocent people,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “Not only did she and her co-conspirators steal personal information in order steal tax return money from the government, but also she sold people’s houses right out from underneath them to other people who believed that they were buying property from her legitimately. For her actions, she will now spend the better part of a decade in prison.”
“The degree to which Vontia Jones and her co-conspirators went in order to perpetrate this scheme is astounding,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Thomas Fattorusso. “Not only did Vontia Jones steal the identities of unwitting individuals, she also stole millions of dollars from the US government; and ultimately US taxpayers. Today, she stands a convicted felon who will spend years in federal prison.”
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Anthony J. Wzorek.