Federal and Tennessee state prosecutors on Wednesday charged 24 current and former Internal Revenue Service employees with “fraudulently obtaining more than $250,000 in government benefits.”
According to a statement released by the office of U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton III, federal authorities charged 13 individuals with “falsely [stating] that they were unemployed,” while applying for and obtaining numerous federal benefits including unemployment insurance, money from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Housing Choice vouchers.
If convicted, the accused could face up to five years in prison under the law. Stanton said the case demonstrated the Justice Department’s “unwavering resolve” to work with law enforcement and “hold accountable anyone” for fraudulently claiming government benefits.
Stanton added: “While these IRS employees were supposed to be serving the public, they were instead brazenly stealing from law-abiding American taxpayers.”
State authorities charged the other 11 individuals with “theft of property over $1,000,” which according to the Associated Press, carries a possible sentence ranging from probation to 12 years in prison if convicted. Taxes are “supposed to support our nation and assist individuals in need” and not supplement “freeloaders who are gaming the system,” Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich said.
“Taxpayers can take comfort in knowing that we take these matters seriously and that we will prosecute these individuals to the fullest extent possible,” Weirich said.
The case is similar to another incident announced Monday by the Justice Department. In Indianapolis, U.S. Attorney Joseph H. Hogsett said that his office was charging four former IRS call center employees with defrauding taxpayers of $30,000 in federal benefits. According to a statement published by Hogsett’s office, the individuals were “found to have engaged in a scheme” where they falsely claimed unemployment, even as they were employed by the agency, to claim government benefits.
“These are not victimless crimes -- any fraud or waste of taxpayer resources is a crime against every taxpayer in this state,” Hogsett said in a statement.