TAMPA — As another tax season gets underway, Ramon Christopher Blanchett learned that it doesn’t pay to mess with the Internal Revenue Service.
U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. sentenced the 29-year-old Tampa man on Thursday to 34 months in prison for filing a false return that netted him a $980,000 refund on income of less than $19,000. The penalty was near the top of the sentencing guidelines and reflected “the seriousness of your conduct,’’ Moody told him.
Three years ago, Blanchett electronically filed his 2016 return with a W-2 from a Tampa nursing home that included false information about his wages and the amount of taxes withheld. The IRS sent him the whopping refund, which he deposited into a SunTrust account. The bank held on to the money for a full year but then issued a check to Blanchett in 2018. He spent $51,117 on a Lexus before the IRS realized its mistake and began forfeiture proceedings to get back the money.
Last fall, Blanchett pleaded guilty to the theft of government funds. Accompanying him to court Thursday were his mother, grandmother, girlfriend and their two-month old son, Lexington.
Blanchett, a part-time DJ and community college student, chose not to make a statement but his public defender, Paul Downing, asked the judge for leniency in sentencing. Blanchett’s judgment and decision-making abilities had been impaired by what Downing called a "very difficult childhood’’ in which both parents used drugs and his father was in and out of prison.
“He had a very strained relationship with his father,’’ Downing said of his client. "He wants to be a better father to his own young child than his father was to him. We came to the conclusion that the best example you can set is ti admit guilt, apologize and accept the sentence of the court. That’s what he’s done.’’
Given Blanchett’s contrition, an appropriate sentence would be 24 months, Downing said.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachelle DesVaux Bedke advocated for the 30 to 37 months called for by sentencing guidelines. She noted that he tried to file other false returns even after IRS agents told him he was under investigation. He also violated the terms of his temporary release last year by using marijuana, and had missed an appointment this week with a counselor.
“I applaud his aspiration,’’ the prosecutor said, “but it seems Mr. Blanchett hasn’t come to fully appreciate the seriousness of his conduct and what he needs to do to get back on track and prevent a recurrence.’’
The judge allowed Blanchett to remain free until he reports to the Bureau of Prisons at a yet-to-be scheduled date. He also was ordered to pay $59,768 in restitution to the IRS and to pay the correct income tax for the years 2016, 2017 and 2018.