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Four more members of million-dollar tax scam sentenced to prison terms

Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 11:16 PM
Last updated 11:53 PM
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Four members of a million-dollar tax fraud scheme received prison terms Tuesday in U.S. District Court.

Two of the people sentenced Tuesday were sisters of ringleader Angela Willingham who used their positions at Georgia Regents Medical Center and the East Central Regional Hospital’s Gracewood camp to steal patient’s identities. Willingham used the information to create fraudulent claims for income tax refunds.

Janice Smalley, 48, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government, misuse of health identifiers and aggravated identity theft for joining in the conspiracy that ran from 2009 through 2013. She used her position at GRU to steal patients’ personal identity information.

U.S. District Judge J. Randal Hall sentenced Smalley to 44 months in prison followed by three years on supervised release. While $91,040 in restitution is included in her sentence, her inability to pay off that amount led Hall to order minimum monthly payments of $300 after her release from prison.

Patrice Roberson, 37, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government and aggravated identity theft for her role in the scheme that included stealing the personal identity information of Gracewood patients. Hall sentenced her to 61 months in prison followed by three years supervised release. She will be required to make minimum monthly payments of $200 a month on restitution totally $127,196.

Willingham’s daughter, Santana Willingham, 23, acted basically as a bagman but because her bank account was used to funnel $346,380 in fraudulent tax return payments, her sentencing range was higher than her sister, Santrece Willingham, another member of the conspiracy.

Hall sentenced Santana Willingham to 60 months in prison followed by three years supervised release. She will be required to make minimum monthly payments of $300.

Santrece Willingham, 22, received a five-year probation sentence in November.

Brittney Wright, 26, also had the role of bagman – collecting the fraudulent IRS tax refunds checks. Like most of the others who followed Angela Willingham into the conspiracy, Wright had no prior criminal history.

“I wasn’t raised like this,” Wright said. “I want to say I’m truly sorry for what I did.”

Hall sentenced Wright to 42 months in prison followed by three years supervised release. He set her minimum monthly payments at $200. Her total restitution is $82,797.



BACKGROUND: Last year a 146-count federal indictment named a dozen people as participants in a million-dollar tax fraud conspiracy. By the end of 2013, all 12 had entered guilty pleas.


• The ringleader’s 22-year-old daughter, Santrece Willingham, was the first to be sentenced. As a minor participant, she received a five-year probation sentence in November. The following month, Dentavia McNair, 23, was sentenced to 108 months in prison; Kelly Barton, 35, was sentenced to 15 months in prison; and Cheryl Willingham, 37, and Matthew Harrington, 45, each received five-year probation terms.

• On Tuesday, four more members of the conspiracy were sentenced to prison terms of 44-61 months. Federal sentences are served without parole.

• Sentencing dates are pending for Angela Willingham, 40; James Butler, 21; and LaSandra Whitfield, 42.

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whyme 01/15/14 - 02:03 am

Why do people insist on taking from the mentally ill and mentally challenged in our community? And these are not financially well-off folks. Guess the perpetrators didn't have much remorse and maybe thought they could get away with it. What a shame. This population already has enough stigma, now they are broke too.

babyboy 01/15/14 - 02:38 am
When judges start issuing so

When judges start issuing so many years in confinement for white collar crime, all these listed above must be African- American. Other race group been defrauding (Medicaid fraud)the federal government and still they get probation or three months in confinement. Our judicial system in American still show bias when it come to a certain group of race.

Sophisticated 01/15/14 - 09:26 am
White billionaire businessman

White billionaire businessman behind Beanie Babies learned Tuesday that he won't go prison for hiding at least $25 million from U.S. tax authorities, and the judge who gave him two years' probation instead went to great lengths to praise his charitable giving. What a embarrassment an d shameless to say for our judicial system that more 20 times more likely to send African- American to prison than whites. I hope U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder expose these sentencing discrepancy .

jimmymac 01/15/14 - 10:09 am

I believe the Beanie Baby guy should have gone to prison for tax fraud. He however defrauded the government out of taxes owed on HIS money. The thieves that are listed in this story stole money from poor and sick people. Their crime was a crime of theft and fraud and the sentences are appropriate.

corgimom 01/15/14 - 10:34 am
Babyboy, not only did they

Babyboy, not only did they commit fraud, they stole people's identities, that's why they got such harsh sentences.

That's not considered white-collar crime.

Not everything is about race.

rmwhitley 01/15/14 - 02:02 pm
We white

folk should be shot for teaching you black folk how to steal and get away with it by saying "this is racially motivated against the brothers and the sisters". Excuse me while I go puke.

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