Milwaukee man convicted for scheme to obtain over $80 million in fraudulent tax refunds


Date: October 7, 2022


Gregory J. Haanstad, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, announced that on October 5, 2022, Francis T. Burns was convicted after a two-day jury trial. Burns was indicted on December 17, 2019, and a superseding indictment was filed on November 17, 2020. The superseding indictment charged Burns with committing wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, and submitting a false claim to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

At trial, the United States proved that between 2016 and 2019, Burns engaged in a scheme to defraud the IRS into paying millions of dollars in refunds to which Burns was not entitled. To obtain those refunds, Burns claimed to be filing returns on behalf of an estate or a trust that in reality did not exist. Burns’ false tax returns attached and were based on fake 1099s that falsely claimed significant sums of income were withheld for federal taxes by third parties such as banks. In reality, Burns was unemployed and there was no estate, no trust, and no income.

Over the period of the scheme, Burns filed five false tax returns asking for refunds totaling more than $80 million. Although Burns did not receive the majority of the money, he spent the refunds he did receive on an expensive house in Chicago, a Mercedes, and other personal expenses. The IRS later seized and forfeited a significant percentage of the money, the house, and the car.

Burns is scheduled to be sentenced before Hon. Lynn Adelman on January 4, 2023. He faces up to 20 years’ imprisonment on the mail and wire fraud convictions, up to ten years’ imprisonment on the money laundering charges, and up to five years’ imprisonment for filing a false claim. He also faces three years of supervised release for each count.

The Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service investigated this case, which Assistant United States Attorneys Julie F. Stewart and John P. Scully prosecuted.