California inmates commit tax crimes from within prison walls?

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has reported that the amount of tax fraud perpetrated by prison inmates has risen upwards of 1,000 percent over the past 10 years. Reportedly, these tax crimes tend to go unpunished for years at a time. Some inmates, including many in California, are said to have managed to fleece millions of dollars from the federal government in fraudulent tax refunds.

The IRS says it has managed to forestall approximately $1.7 million in tax fraud attributed to tax returns filed by prison inmates. One former inmate was reportedly raking in $300,000 to $400,000 a year in fake income tax refunds. He apparently ran the scam with two other inmates for several years.

Another inmate and his wife pleaded guilty to running a similar scam while he was incarcerated at San Quentin, along with two other inmates. While the scam was running, they filed up to 790 false returns and received refunds in the neighborhood of $2.6 million. Last September, a law was passed requiring prisons to provide the IRS with a list of their inmates' names and social security numbers in an effort to put a stop to more of the fraudulent returns.

Tax crimes are serious. However, the simple fact that someone is serving a prison term does not necessarily mean they have committed tax fraud. Even from a California prison cell, everyone is innocent unless and until proven guilty, and it is still the burden of the government to prove the charges against an accused person in court and beyond a reasonable doubt.

Source:, "Inmate Tax Fraud: $100 Million Crime," Stephen Stock, Julie Putnam and Jeremy Carroll, April 5, 2013

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