California man sentenced for $447,000 scheme to cash stolen tax refund checks


Date: January 22, 2020


KANSAS CITY, Mo. – An Ontario, California, man was sentenced in federal court today for his role in a multi-state conspiracy to cash more than $447,000 in stolen tax refund checks by using fake driver's licenses.

Dante L. Chestnut, 31, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Beth Phillips to 5 years in federal prison without parole.

On July 25, 2019, Chestnut pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, one count of bank fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft.

Chestnut admitted that conspirators stole tax refund checks from the mail in April 2016. Chestnut and others used fraudulent driver's licenses and identification documents to cash the checks at various Academy Bank branches as they traveled through Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, and Missouri.

Chestnut admitted that he cashed 23 stolen checks totaling $115,760, the highest amount of any of the conspirators. For example, Chestnut used fraudulent identification to deposit a stolen $4,217 tax refund check into a newly opened bank account at an Academy Bank branch in Centennial, Colorado. Chestnut then withdrew $4,017, leaving only $200 in the account. According to court documents, conspirators followed the same method to cash a total of $447,518 in stolen tax refund checks.

When Chestnut passed legitimate, stolen U.S. Treasury checks at various Academy Bank branches, the Treasury Department required Academy Bank to reimburse the government, which in turn reimbursed the intended check recipients whose refunds were delayed.

Chestnut is the fifth defendant to plead guilty and be sentenced among eight defendants charged in this case.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Venneman. It was investigated by the IRS-Criminal Investigation, Postal Inspection Service, and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.