Tampa, Florida – U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven today sentenced LaJoyce Caldwell Houston (51, Riverview) to two years and nine months in federal prison for receiving stolen tax refunds. The Court also ordered her to pay $61,660.52 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service. Houston pleaded guilty on August 23, 2017.
According to court documents, in 2011 and 2012, while working at the Tampa Police Department, Houston received goods, services, money orders, and cash that were obtained with debit cards tied to accounts that had been loaded with fraudulently obtained tax refunds. The fraudulent refunds deposited in these accounts were the result of fraudulent federal income tax returns that had been filed by co-conspirator Rita Girven. Items received as a result of the fraud included a pool pump system for Houston’s home, computers, appliances, purses, jewelry, money orders, and cash, among other things. The Court also found that fraudulent tax returns were filed from Houston’s home and that online purchases were made from her residence with debit cards that had been loaded with fraudulent tax refunds.
In addition, in January 2012, Houston used her position at the Tampa Police Department to obtain the personally identifiable information (PII) of five individuals that Houston then provided to Girven to file fraudulent tax returns and/or obtain and access reloadable debit cards.
The Court ruled that the fraudulently obtained tax refunds deposited into the accounts from which LaJoyce Houston benefited totaled $284,490.41 and that Houston received more than $150,000 in goods, services, and cash from these accounts.
LaJoyce Houston’s co-defendant and husband, Eric Houston, pleaded guilty on March 31, 2017, to receiving stolen government property. He was sentenced on October 25, 2017, to six months in federal prison. In a related case (8:15-cr-58-T-17EAJ), Rita Girven pleaded guilty on March 16, 2015, to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. She was sentenced on November 20, 2015, to 12 years in federal prison.
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