Tax refund scammer arrested

Shannon Mays

It’s been roughly five years since Syam Investments, its owner Shannon Mays and affiliates like Diana Broussard McCoy from Port Arthur were exposed in the pages of this newspaper for bilking hundreds of Southeast Texans out of tens of thousands of dollars. And since then, those who say they were victimized by the group have been waiting for some form of justice.

But now, with the suspected criminal mastermind behind bars, they may at long last get their day in court.

According to evidence gathered in the fall of 2012, Dallas-based Mays would pay local affiliates like McCoy a set amount per referral for information on clients, who were typically elderly and/or disabled, to include the client/victim’s Social Security number, bank account information and state ID. In exchange for providing McCoy – and ultimately Syam and Mays – with their personal identifying information, the victim was told that the tax preparation business would file on their behalf for stimulus funds provided through the IRS for low-income citizens.

Indeed, most victims reported receiving some money from the exchange deposited to their bank account. What they did not know until much later was that the company was pocketing much more than it was sending its “clients” because agents of Syam would file false tax returns in the victims’ names to fraudulently receive thousands of dollars from the IRS that they would then mostly keep as profit.

In reality, there was no stimulus funding. All the victims received were token payouts from a company that in effect stole their identity and committed federal crimes in the form of tax fraud using their name.

Theodore Victor of Port Arthur, who filed charges against the proclaimed “stimulus” agents for identity fraud through the Port Arthur Police Department and the IRS, as well as dozens upon dozens of victims just like him, faced repaying both the money deposited in their accounts and the amount pocketed by Syam reps.

“The IRS said I had to prove I didn’t know (Broussard and/or Mays) was filing these false tax returns for me or else I’m responsible for everything,” the 61-year-old Victor told The Examiner. “I can maybe make payments or something, but I’m very worried. There’s no telling what they can do with your identity. This could be just the beginning.”

In a 2013 Harris County case that has since been dismissed with the state of Texas taking in more than $1 million from Mays and alleged co-conspirators for administrative costs and attorney fees, then Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a civil suit against Syam and two of its officers – Shannon Mays and Marshrief Shead – officially accusing them and other affiliates of multiple violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Texas Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act.

“Targeting senior centers and churches, Syam Tax Services launched an apparently well-orchestrated scheme to defraud the elderly – and even worse, those who rely on federal benefits for their well-being,” Abbott said, adding that his office traced Syam to “hundreds of fraudulent tax returns.”

Even while under the watchful eye of the Attorney General’s Office, Syam still operated its illegal business, state attorneys argued, changing the company name to “Baby Momma Tax Services.” Still, roughly a year later, the Texas Attorney General’s Office filed a motion to non-suit, or drop all charges, against most of the defendants, including Mays and Syam, at the same time it filed to seek forfeiture of $1.4 million that would be deposited into the state agency’s coffers.

None of the victims reported any compensation from the state action and subsequent $1 million-plus forfeiture that was granted in 2014.

The same year the state of Texas got its cut, the federal government also filed charges against Syam and a couple of its agents.

In February 2014, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas secured an indictment against Mays for criminal conspiracy, alleging that Mays targeted individuals who were generally exempt from having to file income tax returns because they would be less likely to discover a fraudulent tax return had been filed on their behalf.

“To further facilitate the scheme, Mays employed ‘recruiters’ (like Broussard), paying them from $50-$100 for every client they successfully brought into Syam Tax,” the agency said, confirming information that had been provided by victims to The Examiner years before. “In order to avoid detection, Mays altered the taxpayer’s address and phone numbers on the returns so that any phone calls or correspondence from the IRS would not reach the taxpayer. The scheme also used electronic deposits to ensure paper checks would not be mailed to the taxpayer.”

Mays, a certified tax preparer out of Dallas, was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud dating back to the 2012 complaints from citizens in Port Arthur, Anahuac, Nacogdoches and Lufkin regarding income tax returns that were being fraudulently prepared on their behalf.

It was also confirmed by the federal agency that Mays was operating numerous offices across the United States under the name “Syam Tax Services, L.L.C.” and “Baby Momma Tax,” as well as operating or seeking to operate satellite offices in numerous other locations, including Fort Worth, Houston, New Orleans, Memphis, Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles.

For the tax year 2011 that would have been filed in 2012, Mays filed 4,226 tax returns claiming approximately $3,150,406.

Mays was scheduled for trial in January 2015 but failed to appear in court. He has been on the lam ever since.

For two and a half years, a federal warrant was on the books to bring in the Syam business guru, but to no avail. Then on June 29, Mays was arrested and brought back to the Southeast Texas to face the original charges that have been pending against him for years in addition to new charges that reflect his flight from justice.

In front of the court June 30, Mays asked for – and received – court-appointed counsel but was remanded to custody for safe-keeping pending future court proceedings.

Diana McCoy was indicted Oct. 1, 2014, by a federal grand jury charging her with conspiracy to commit wire fraud for her role in acquiring victims’ information and selling it to Mays for illegal purposes. According to an investigation into McCoy, on Aug. 22, 2012, Port Arthur Police and federal investigators executed a search warrant at McCoy’s residence in Port Arthur where they recovered numerous boxes of documents that contained the personal information of Port Arthur residents that had previously been faxed to Syam’s office. In August 2015, McCoy was sentenced to serve four years probation, render a $100 special assessment fee and pay back $45,000 in restitution.

It was further ordered that McCoy is jointly and severally liable with Mays to pay restitution totaling $45,000 to victim(s) noted in a sealed report. There is no record that any money has been paid to the victims to date.

A court date has not yet been set for Mays’ appearance on pending charges of conspiracy and failure to appear in court for a couple years. If convicted, Mays faces up to 20 years in federal prison on the conspiracy charge alone.