A former Ascension Parish Health Unit receptionist who sold the Social Security numbers for more than 425 people from a state database so they could be used in an income tax refund scam has been sentenced to three years in federal prison.
Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baton Rouge said Tuesday that Ta’Sha Thomas, 26, of Donaldsonville, also was ordered to serve three years of supervised release and pay $464,764 in restitution as part of her sentence handed down last week in U.S. District Court.
Thomas, who worked part-time at the Health Unit in Donaldsonville, admitted in a guilty plea in June to stealing the numbers from the COMPASS database and selling them to Mona Hill, one of the other three defendants convicted in the scheme, for $8,000 to $9,000.
Hill, 34, of Plaquemine, used the numbers to obtain more than $464,000 in fraudulent tax returns from the U.S. Treasury, prosecutors have said.
At the time of Thomas’ employment, the Health Unit was under the supervision of Kenny Matassa, who at the time was manager of the facility. Thomas’ guilty plea June 22 came as the election for Ascension Parish president was starting to gain steam and Matassa was pointing to his years of experience in parish government. Matassa was ultimately elected to the post.
Thomas pleaded guilty to counts of access device fraud and aggravated identity theft and admitted to playing a role in the scam in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge as part of a plea deal with prosecutors.
Matassa said in June that parish officials received a call from the FBI about two years ago, and he turned over requested information. At the time, he also suggested state health officials monitored the database, not the parish.
COMPASS is a state database used for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, also known as WIC.
Thomas had worked for the parish from June 2011 to September 2012 and had access to the Social Security numbers because she checked in people for WIC.
The names, Social Security numbers and other information in the database were from people who had visited health clinics in Louisiana, the factual basis in Thomas’ plea says, but many of the numbers Thomas stole belonged to people who no longer lived in Louisiana or never did.
Hill has already been sentenced to five years and five months in federal prison and ordered to pay $491,268.18 in restitution to the IRS.
In addition to Hill, the other two defendants have pleaded guilty to charges of receiving money from bogus tax returns in the scheme. Cameron Butler, 33, and Shonda V. Johnson, 42, both of Baton Rouge, are awaiting sentencing.
Danette Willis, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baton Rouge, said Tuesday of the four defendants, only Thomas worked for Ascension Parish government.
U.S. District Judge James J. Brady sentenced Thomas on April 6 and dismissed a third count prosecutors had agreed to drop as part of the plea deal, but he released her with conditions. She was ordered Thursday to report to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons by May 9.
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