TAMPA — Two pioneers of tax refund fraud appear to have fallen.
Rashia "First Lady" Wilson and off-and-on boyfriend Maurice "Thirst" Larry, both 27, have signed plea deals admitting they fooled the IRS into paying out $2.24 million.
Separately, Larry agreed to plead guilty in another federal tax fraud case in which he is a defendant with Marterrence "Quat" Holloway, whose busted-up hotel party once gave rise to a multiagency investigation of tax fraud in the Tampa Bay area.
The U.S. Attorney's Office filed Wilson's agreement late Tuesday and took it Wednesday to Magistrate Judge Thomas G. Wilson, who accepted the woman's guilty pleas on charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Next, prosecutors filed Larry's two agreements, which state that he admits guilt on six counts: conspiracy to defraud the United States, access fraud, and two counts each of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Wire fraud carries the longest possible maximum sentence: 20 years. Aggravated identity theft requires a two-year term on top of any other.
While questioning defendant Wilson, the judge hurled barbs at the IRS for allowing a woman with a learning disability and a seventh-grade education to tap the Treasury.
"Did you have any trouble preparing the income tax returns?" he asked.
"No, sir," she said.
He wanted to know how quickly she got the money. He wondered if the IRS was trying too hard to move refunds.
Her attorney, Mark J. O'Brien, wouldn't let her go into detail.
"I want to know why the people in the IRS aren't paying more attention to what's going on," the judge continued. "I'm focusing on their failure, not hers."
A couple of weeks. That was how long Wilson said she waited for money after claiming a refund on behalf of one victim, identified as "M.B." The return was electronically filed from a hotel and directed to a reloadable debit card on May 2, 2012.
That was just $9,987 of a $2.24 million loss that prosecutors attribute to Wilson and Larry. The way plea agreements work, a defendant can admit to a pile of facts without pleading guilty to a pile of charges. Wilson pleaded guilty to Counts No. 3 and No. 47, which both pertain to M.B.
Her attorney didn't want her talking about the other refunds because the next battle is brewing. He alluded to it in court: He told the judge that while his client doesn't dispute the facts of the case, he may later contest how much money she took and how many victims were affected.
What did she take? What did Larry take? Those questions could arise at sentencing, when a judge considers such factors as intended loss to the government, the impact on victims and the defendant's criminal past.
Both Wilson and Larry have prior criminal records. Wilson, whose state criminal record begins with four shoplifting arrests at age 12, has felony convictions for grand theft and burglary of a conveyance. Larry pleaded guilty in 2004 to having a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a church. Adjudication was withheld. In 2006 he was convicted of cocaine possession.
The odd man out at this point?
Holloway, the remaining defendant in a 37-count indictment. His attorney, Tim Bower Rodriguez, took over the case from another attorney in February and is still becoming acquainted with the evidence.
"Maurice Larry's signing a plea agreement has zero impact on what my client will ultimately do," he said.
Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report.