Ringleader pleads guilty in million-dollar tax fraud conspiracy

The ringleader of a million-dollar tax fraud conspiracy pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court.

 

Angela Willingham, 40, her daughter Santana Willingham, 23, her sister Janice Smalley, 48, and her nephew James Butler, 21, were the final members of the conspiracy to plead guilty and admit their roles in the operation that ran from January 2009 through their indictment earlier this year.

Angela Willingham was the leader who recruited the others to take part in the scheme. Smalley and sister Patrice Roberson, 36, used their positions at Georgia Regents Medical Center and the Gracewood State Hospital campus in Augusta to steal patients’ personal identity information.

Angela Willingham used the information to fill out fraudulent W-2 income tax forms that claimed the people had income from winning the Georgia lottery. The tax forms claimed refunds were due, IRS special agent Roger Garland testified Monday.

Angela Willingham opened numerous bank accounts and recruited others to do the same. The fraudulently obtained Treasury checks were directly deposited into those bank accounts, Garland said.

Angela Willingham always took 45 percent of the deposits, and the rest of the money was divided among the participants. She warned the others that the scheme could fall apart but, “They wanted the money,” Garland said.

The others who pleaded guilty earlier this year are Santrece Willingham, 22, Dentavia McNair, 23, Kelly Barton, 35, Brittney Wright, 25, Cheryl Willingham, 37, LaSandra Whitfield, 42, and Matthew Harrington, 45.

Sentencing dates have not been set.

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