Pleasanton Weekly

News - January 17, 2014

Pleasanton woman sentenced to 27 months for tax fraud

Fake cancer claim adds time for obstructing justice

by Glenn Wohltmann

A Pleasanton woman has been sentenced to more than two years in federal prison for a fake tax refund scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Denise LaShawn Reed, 45, also known as Brooke Nicholson, Lauren Roberts, Denise Berry, Savana Jones and Neyce Roberts, was sentenced to 27 months for her role in the scam, in which she admitted to filing for more than a dozen false tax refunds.

Reed pleaded guilty Sept. 5. According to the plea agreement, from January 2009 through February 2010, Reed filed 14 false and fraudulent federal income tax returns with the IRS.

The total amount of the false claims was $94,700. Reed used fake information to file for tax refunds, using only the name of a victim.

As part of the scheme, some of the returns reported that the taxpayer earned income as part of a business they operated when Reed knew the taxpayer did not own or operate a business. The 14 false tax returns fraudulently reported a refund was due.

Reed admitted to receiving tax refunds for 13 of the false claims.

According to court documents, Reed electronically filed tax returns using others' identities to defraud the United States into paying tax refunds, which were deposited into bank accounts or debit cards controlled by Reed. She then used the funds to pay personal expenses.

Reed was charged on Dec. 18, 2012, with 14 counts of filing false claims. She pleaded guilty to one count on Monday.

In addition to 27 months in prison, U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Rogers Gonzalez sentenced the defendant to a three-year period of supervised release.

In an attempt to obtain a lenient sentence, Reed provided false information to the court: a forged letter on Stanford Hospital letterhead stating that she was being treated for breast cancer, which was not true.

As a result, at sentencing Gonzalez found that Reed obstructed justice and increased her sentence.

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