Tax fraud admitted at Beaumont jail

Prosecutors were seeking the forfeiture of Briscoe’s Jasper home.

In March 2015, The Examiner first detailed charges filed against a Southeast Texas tax preparer in federal court alleging he fraudulently filed tax returns with the IRS claiming education credits for inmates of the Jefferson County Jail for at least three years before his scheme against taxpayers was brought to light. At that time, defendant tax preparer Derek Cornelius Briscoe and alleged conspirator Angela Dunaway were facing a nine-count indictment that could have landed each of the accused in prison for 20 years with fines up to $250,000 or more. No word has yet been made as to Dunaway’s disposition, but Briscoe has since pleaded guilty to his crimes.

According to the federal indictment filed at the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas’ office in early 2015, “It was the object of the conspiracy for the defendants to obtain payment for false claims for refunds from the IRS by making material misrepresentations to the IRS in individual tax returns that contained the personal identifying information of inmates. …” The indictment further alleged that Briscoe was the mastermind behind the conspiracy, paying inmates such as Dunaway at the Jefferson County Jail and other correctional institutions for the personal identifying information of fellow inmates at the facilities.

“As part of the scheme, defendant Briscoe established and maintained contacts among the female inmates of the Jefferson County Jail and offered those inmates a fee for every inmate whose personal information they could obtain for the purposes of filing a tax return,” the indictment alleged. Inmates, including Dunaway, would receive their funds through the JPay.com messaging service.

At times doing business through Thaferrets Tax Service, Briscoe’s inmate tax service submitted “over 500 false federal tax returns for tax years 2009, 2010 and 2011 and requested fraudulent refunds in excess of $1 million,” federal prosecutors presented to the grand jury. “Over 95 percent of those fraudulent tax returns claimed a refundable education credit.”

As part of the proceeding, prosecutors were seeking the forfeiture of $1.1 million in proceeds secured as part of the conspiracy and Briscoe’s Jasper home with accompanying acreage.

By Dec. 15, 2015, two more Southeast Texans were implicated in the scheme. Stasha Franchell Anderson, 34, of Jasper pleaded guilty to aiding in the preparation of a false tax return and was sentenced to 36 months in federal prison. Jessica Bellis, 43, of Baytown pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. 

According to federal prosecutors, Anderson and Bellis were inmates who supplied Briscoe with the personally identifiable information of other inmates to file false tax returns, e-mailing or telephoning Briscoe to give him the inmates’ personal information, which was then used to electronically file fraudulent tax returns. 

Briscoe was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison Nov. 19, 2015. Additionally, Anderson was ordered to pay restitution of $156,519 to the IRS while Bellis was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $30,000. Both women are jointly and severally liable for $1,127,193 in total restitution along with Briscoe.

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