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Judge doesn't budge on 21-year sentence for tax fraud 'queen'

Rashia Wilson admitted to illegally having a gun, as well as identity theft and wire fraud.
Rashia Wilson admitted to illegally having a gun, as well as identity theft and wire fraud.
Published Mar. 6, 2015

TAMPA — Self-described tax fraud queen Rashia Wilson got no breaks Thursday in a federal courtroom, where a judge under orders to reconsider her prison sentence again imposed 21 years.

U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. listened to Wilson's hard-luck tale of growing up on her own from age 12 and turning to crime to feed herself. But he reminded her that she stole from the very government that later provided her public assistance.

When she asked for a second chance, he didn't budge.

"It was my intent to give her that sentence," he announced.

Wilson had won the right to a new hearing after the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected her first 21-year sentence because of procedural errors.

At the time of her July 2013 sentencing, she had admitted guilt in two pending cases — for illegally having a gun, and for identity theft and wire fraud.

The appeals court said Moody should have consolidated the cases. Instead, he took them up in succession. After he had imposed 18 months on the gun charge, he held it against Wilson as a prior conviction, increasing her potential penalty in the second case by 3 1/2 years.

At Thursday's resentencing, Moody made it clear that the 21-year term was no math mistake.

So it's back to federal prison for a mother of three whose Facebook images of flaunting cash and taunting cops to catch her became a symbol for stolen identity tax refund fraud.

Federal authorities say she collected fraudulent refunds for at least $3 million and used some of the money to throw a $30,000 birthday party for a 1-year-old.

Increasingly, others are following her to prison for these crimes.

A North Carolina woman was sentenced in April to 27 years. She leads a list released by the IRS this week touting the agency's top identity theft prosecutions for 2014.

Tampa, once America's tax fraud capital, is now just another city battling the problem.

The year Wilson was sentenced, the same thing happened to 437 other federal identity theft defendants nationally, the IRS reports. But last year, the number of defendants getting sentenced climbed to 748. The average sentence was 43 months.

Wilson is scheduled to be released in January 2031.

Attorney Andrew Greenlee said he will appeal again. He said he was disappointed in the sentence but proud of Wilson's heartfelt comments to the judge.

Greenlee and Wilson each made a case that she has used her time in prison wisely and, as a result, is a changed woman.

She earned a high school degree. She got baptized. She hasn't had disciplinary problems.

Greenlee said prison is the first structured environment Wilson has had in life. He said her background "reads like a compendium of everything that was and is wrong with life in the inner city during the crack epidemic."

He argued that she should be punished no more harshly than co-defendant Maurice Larry, who got 14 years and six months.

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Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Sweeney said Wilson publicly glorified the fraud and induced others to participate.

"She's the one who called herself the queen of tax fraud," Sweeney said.

Contact Patty Ryan at pryan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3382.

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