Camden County woman convicted in stolen identity refund fraud scheme


Date: December 10, 2021


Camden, NJ — A Camden County, New Jersey, woman was found guilty for her role in an extensive scheme to obtain money through fraudulently obtained refund checks issued by the U.S. Treasury, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced today.

Awilda Henriquez of Clementon, New Jersey, 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.

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. SIRF schemes generally share a number of hallmarks. Perpetrators obtain personal identifying information, including Social Security numbers and dates of birth, from unwitting individuals, who often reside in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. They then complete Form 1040 tax returns using the fraudulently obtained information, and they falsify wages earned, taxes withheld, and other data, to always ensure that the fraudulent tax returns generate a refund. They direct the U.S. Treasury Department to mail refund checks to locations that the perpetrators control or can access. With the fraudulently obtained refund checks in hand, SIRF perpetrators generate cash proceeds by depositing the checks into bank accounts that they control or cashing the checks at check cashing businesses.

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. Of the 3,300 returns filed, several of the refund checks were issued and ultimately cashed at check cashing agencies in New Jersey, Philadelphia, and New York using fraudulent identifications, including fake New Jersey driver's licenses, fake Social Security cards, and fake Department of Homeland Security Permanent Resident Identification cards.

On March 28, 2018, a Camden grand jury returned an indictment against Henriquez and her conspirators, Alberto Sanchez, Jorge Gutierrez, and Roque Bisono. Henriquez, Sanchez, Gutierrez and Bisono, and their conspirators, obtained stolen identities of residents of Puerto Rico and used them to file fraudulent income tax returns seeking federal tax refunds to which they were not entitled. The conspirators recruited mail carriers from the U.S. Postal Service as part of the scheme to steal the tax refund checks from the mail. The mail carriers were paid for every U.S Treasury check that was stolen. Henriquez and her conspirators recruited and paid "check couriers" to cash the tax refund checks in a variety of ways, including at check cashing businesses in New Jersey, where Henriquez paid the tellers to also participate in the scheme. 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 they were paid by Henriquez to do so. In total, the scheme caused $565,091 in losses to the U.S. Treasury.

Sanchez pleaded guilty on Aug. 28, 2019, to two counts of theft of government funds, two counts of aggravated identity theft, and one count of witness tampering and was sentenced by Judge Kugler on Dec. 13, 2019, to 45 months in prison. Gutierrez pleaded guilty on Oct. 27, 2021, to conspiracy to defraud the United States, and is scheduled to be sentenced on March 1, 2022. Bisono plead guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States, theft of government funds, aggravated identity theft, and false statements on November 7, 2018, and sentencing is set for March 21, 2022. The sentencing of other conspirators remains pending.

The conspiracy to defraud the United States government count carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison. The counts of theft of government funds are punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison. The counts of aggravated identity theft are punishable by a statutory mandatory prison sentence of two years that must be served consecutively to any term of imprisonment imposed for the violation of any other count. All the counts are also punishable by a fine of up to $250,000, or twice the gain or loss caused by the offense, whichever is greatest. Henriquez's sentencing is scheduled for April 12, 2022.

Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael Montanez in Newark and Acting 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. She also thanked the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for its assistance with the investigation leading to today's conviction.

The government is represented by Senior Trial Counsel Jason M. Richardson and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christina O. Hud of the Criminal Division.