TAMPA — Rashia Wilson's life had spectators. For more than a year, investigators watched her.
She moved from Valrico to Wimauma. They trailed the moving van. She visited a gun range. They found out she paid $10 to rent a .380-caliber Taurus. They learned she drove a 2013 Audi bought with a $90,000 money order, and that she bragged about being the "First Lady" of tax refund fraud.
They read her Facebook posts, including this one on May 22:
"I'm Rashia, the queen of IRS tax fraud. … I'm a millionaire for the record. So if you think that indicting me will be easy, it won't. I promise you. I won't do no time, dumb b------."
U.S. Marshals arrested Wilson on a weapons charge brought by IRS-Criminal Investigations on Friday morning, capping a muscular week of federal and local blows to the alleged perpetrators of Tampa tax fraud.
In an affidavit, IRS-CI special agent Gary W. Smedley said investigators found a .22-caliber Walther beneath Wilson's mattress, a cellphone photo of her with a pink firearm and a Facebook image of her with the Taurus at Shooting Sports Inc.
Wilson, 26, who has prior felony convictions for grand theft and burglary, is not permitted to own a gun, said Smedley, who testified at a preliminary hearing Friday afternoon.
Only on paper was the hearing about guns.
It quickly turned to tax fraud when private defense attorney Timothy J. Fitzgerald asked that Wilson be allowed to post bail, a move opposed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara C. Sweeney.
The prosecutor read Wilson's tax-fraud millionaire Facebook post aloud in court. She said Wilson may well have been involved in the theft of $1 million.
"Ms. Wilson is clearly very skilled at identity theft," Sweeney said.
She told Magistrate Judge Thomas G. Wilson that defendant Wilson had been throwing around a "staggering" amount of money and had talked about getting out of town.
Defense attorney Fitzgerald said that Wilson, a mother of three, has ties to the community.
"I don't think the concern is she's going to flee the gun charge," the judge said; rather, "there's a substantial and serious tax charge coming."
Investigators found evidence at Wilson's home that fraudulent tax returns may have been filed within the past week, Sweeney said. Printouts of medical records, dated Sept. 14, contained notations that appeared to be about tax filings.
The search Wednesday turned up thousands of ID numbers and 40 reloadable debit cards.
The gun charge against Wilson arose after a two-year, multiagency investigation of tax fraud in Tampa, which drew on the efforts of the Tampa Police Department, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, Secret Service and U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Wilson's boyfriend, Maurice "Thirst" Larry, and an associate, Marterrence "Quat" Holloway, were picked up Wednesday on a 39-count indictment that accused them of conspiring to defraud the federal government, wire fraud, access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.
That same day, Tampa police went after 13 people on state charges. Police characterize the 15, collectively, as pioneers in a scheme to trick the IRS into issuing fraudulent refunds. Most faced identity theft, credit card fraud and grand theft charges.
Wilson, however, was arrested on a state gun charge similar to the subsequent federal charge. She posted bail Wednesday and was released, only to be rearrested by U.S. Marshals.
She has been arrested 40 times since age 12, but has never gone to state prison.
In court Friday, she still had on street clothes: a red shirt splashed with black Nike lettering, black shorts and athletic shoes. Her fingers shimmered with a pink-and-white manicure.
Before the hearing began, she mouthed messages to a row of family members, including her mother. At times, she shielded her words with a paper copy of the criminal complaint. After many minutes of this, a U.S. Marshal told her to turn around and face forward. She did.
The judge denied bail.
Wilson left in shackles.
Patty Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3382.