A Macon woman was sentenced to five years on probation and ordered to pay more than $23,000 in restitution Tuesday for her part in a forgery and identity theft ring.
U.S. District Judge C. Ashley Royal sentenced Rhonda Meshelle Everett, 38, after she reached a plea agreement with prosecutors. She pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit theft and one count of identity theft.
Youre getting a really big break today, Royal told Everett during the session. I recommend you never come back to court.
Everett was one of the people arrested in 2012 as part of an investigation involving the FBI, the Secret Service and the IRS. Allegations included identity theft, passing counterfeit checks, tax fraud and money laundering.
According to information from the U.S. Attorneys Office, some of the conspirators obtained personal identification information from unsuspecting individuals. Other conspirators would then file false tax returns or obtain fraudulent tax refunds.
Everett obtained confidential records from the Salvation Army, where some of the victims received charitable benefits and services. Everett and other conspirators obtained names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and photos of victims. During a sting operation, she sold 35 names and other identity information to an undercover Secret Service agent for $200.
Other alleged conspirators then used the information to create false W-2 forms to file fraudulent income tax returns to receive refunds. Everetts personal address was used as the address for the false tax returns.
Everett was the first member of the ring to be sentenced. Bridgette Sabrina Williams, 30, who was charged with two counts of identity theft, also has pleaded guilty but is still awaiting sentencing. Yolanda Yvette Blount, 32, who was charged with five counts of identity theft, also has pleaded guilty.
Blount and Raquel Hogan will be sentenced in federal court Jan. 15.
Graham Thorpe, a prosecutor with the U.S. attorneys office, said the investigation is ongoing.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.