A St. Paul woman was sentenced to two years in prison for cheating the federal government out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by filing many dozens of false tax returns on behalf of friends and family, assigning them various professions including exotic dancer.
Ebony S. Yarbrough, 28, was sentenced last week in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis after pleading guilty to identity theft.
The sentence includes a year of supervised release after leaving prison and an agreement to pay nearly $300,000 in restitution, with roughly 90 percent of that total going to the IRS and the rest to the state of Minnesota.
Yarbrough's case "is a powerful reminder of what can happen when you decide to steal from honest taxpayers," Shea Jones, special agent in charge of the IRS field office in St. Paul, said in a statement announcing the sentence.
From 2013 until last year, Yarbrough persuaded friends and family members to allow her to file their state and federal returns, saying she would charge less than a tax preparation service. She obtained from the taxpayers their essential tax documentation as well as personal identifying information such as Social Security numbers, addresses and dependent information.
Yarbrough would then falsely claim business deductions by assigning professions to people such as "hair stylist," "cleaner" or "exotic dancer." She also padded some of the returns by using stolen personal identification information belonging to minors and falsely adding dependents.
She filed about $500,000 in bogus state and federal claims involving nearly 200 returns that she prepared or assisted others with. Each filer paid Yarbrough anywhere from $200 to $1,000 for the return.
The defense, in a court filing before sentencing, contended that Yarbrough "did not receive a great sum of money for preparing these returns. ... The tax filers themselves were the beneficiaries ... and that is where the great majority of the money at issue in the case ended up."