11 Augusta-area residents indicted in tax return fraud

Eleven Augusta area residents are among a dozen people accused of stealing a half-million dollars from the federal government by filing false tax returns.


A 146-count indictment accuses the residents of theft of public funds, conspiracy, identity fraud and violation of the federal law that makes personal health information confidential.

According to the indictment, summarized in federal court Tuesday afternoon by U.S. Magistrate Judge W. Leon Barfield, two of the defendants collected patients’ personal identity and health care information through their jobs at the Georgia Regents Medical Center and East Central Regional Hospital, the Gracewood campus.

The indictment names: Angela Willingham, 40, Santana Willingham, 23, Santrece Willingham, 22, and James Butler, 21, all of Hephzibah; Dentavia McNair, 23, Janice Smalley, 47, Cheryl Willingham, 37, and Kelly Barton, 35, all of Augusta; Brittney Wright, 25, of Evans; and Patrice Roberson, 36, and LaSandra Whitfield, 42, of Waynesboro. The indictment also names a Savannah resident, Matthew Harrington, 45.

According to the indictment, Smalley used her position at the Georgia Regents Medical Center, and Roberson used her position at the East Central Regional Hospital to get information that was used to create and file fraudulent income tax returns.

The conspiracy allegedly operated from January 2009 through Tuesday, when the defendants were arrested by federal agents.

According to the indictment, the fraudulent tax returns also sometimes listed fake lottery winnings.

Barfield set $10,000 bonds Monday for Santana Willingham, Wright, Roberson, Cheryl Willingham, and Santrece Willingham. He set a $25,000 bond for Smalley, a $30,000 bond for Barton, and a $35,000 bond for Whitfield.

Detention hearings for Angela Willingham and Harrington are scheduled for Tuesday.

Butler was already in custody, unable to make bond on a misdemeanor battery charge. Barfield said if Butler is released from state custody, he will reconsider setting bond on the federal charges.

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Sun, 12/17/2017 - 19:23

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