9/11/2017 A federal jury sitting in Columbus, Georgia returned a guilty verdict against a U.S. postal worker for his role in a stolen identity refund fraud conspiracy, announced Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney G. F. Peterman III for the Middle District of Georgia.
According to evidence presented at trial, Harold Coley, 52, worked as a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service and his postal route was in Columbus, Georgia. In 2012, Coley was recruited by Keshia Lanier to participate in stolen identity tax refund conspiracy. Coley collected addresses on his route, including many that did not exist or related to vacant buildings, and provided them to Lanier and others for the purpose of filing fraudulent tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Lanier obtained many of the stolen identities from Tamika Floyd who worked for the Alabama Department of Public Health. The stolen identities primarily belonged to 16 and 17 year-olds.
Lanier and others directed the IRS to mail the tax refund checks to the addresses Coley provided. In exchange for cash, Coley intercepted the fraudulently obtained refund checks and provided them to Lanier and others. In total, Coley’s co-conspirators directed over 1,600 refund checks claiming more than $2.5 million to addresses on his postal route. Lanier and Floyd were previously sentenced to 15 years and more than seven years in prison for their roles in the scheme.
U.S. District Court Judge Clay D. Land scheduled sentencing for Dec. 19. Coley faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the conspiracy count, 20 years in prison for each count of mail fraud and 5 years in prison for each count of embezzlement of the mail. Coley also faces a period of supervised release, restitution, forfeiture and monetary penalties.
Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg and U.S. Attorney Peterman commended special agents of IRS Criminal Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, who conducted the investigation, and Trial Attorneys Michael C. Boteler and William Montague of the Tax Division, who prosecuted the case, with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia.
In March 2015, one of Coley’s co-conspirators, Keshia Lanier, the ringleader of a $24 million SIRF conspiracy, also pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. On Sept. 25, 2015, Lanier was sentenced to serve 15 years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to forfeit $5,811,406.