Three charged for fraudulently seeking 2.9 billion dollars in COVID-19 tax credits


Date: March 14, 2024


Three individuals were charged today for falsely seeking more than $2.9 billion from the IRS by filing 131 false tax forms claiming COVID-19 related employment tax credits, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.

Rudolph Johnson, Frantz Pasteur, and Frederick Anderson, all of Irvington, New Jersey, are each charged by complaint with one count of conspiracy to file false claims against the government and one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. Additionally, Johnson is charged with three counts of money laundering, Pasteur with two counts of money laundering, and Anderson with three counts of money laundering. Johnson and Pasteur appeared today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael A. Hammer in Newark federal court and were released on bail. Anderson will appear at a later date.

According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact, Congress authorized an employee retention tax credit (ERC) that a small business could use to reduce the employment tax it owed to the IRS.

To qualify, the business had to have been in operation in 2020 and to have experienced at least a partial suspension of its operations because of a government order related to COVID-19 (for example, an order limiting commerce, group meetings or travel) or a significant decline in profits. The credit was an amount equal to a set percentage of the wages that the business paid to its employees during the relevant time period, subject to a maximum amount. Congress also authorized the IRS to give a credit against employment taxes to reimburse businesses for the wages paid to employees who were on sick or family leave and could not work because of COVID-19.

From June 2021 to November 2023, Johnson, Pasteur, and Anderson established a slew of sham entities and filed fraudulent IRS forms in the names of these entities claiming fraudulent entitlement to tax refunds, including the ERC. These entities had limited tax histories, never paid any W-2 wages, and made only nominal, if any, payments to the IRS. In total, the defendants claimed $2.9 billion in tax benefits, and as a result, the U.S. Treasury issued $1.03 million in refunds. Subsequently, the defendants deposited the falsely claimed refunds into their bank accounts and used the money to purchase various items such as luxury cars to fraudulently enrich themselves.

The conspiracy to file false claims against the government offense carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud offense carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Each of the money laundering offenses carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine or twice the value of the criminally derived property.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of IRS – Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Tammy Tomlins; and postal inspectors from the U.S. Postal Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge Christopher A. Nielsen, Philadelphia Division, with the investigation leading to today’s charges.

The District of New Jersey COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Strike Force is one of five strike forces established throughout the United States by the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute COVID-19 fraud. The strike forces focus on large-scale, multi-state pandemic relief fraud perpetrated by criminal organizations and transnational actors. The strike forces are interagency law enforcement efforts, using prosecutor-led and data analyst-driven teams designed to identify and bring to justice those who stole pandemic relief funds.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dong Joo Lee of the Cybercrime Unit in Newark.

The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.