A 40-year-old Baton Rouge woman was sentenced Wednesday to a prison term of nearly five years for her role in a scheme that netted $930,737 from the Internal Revenue Service.
Sheila M. Cage pleaded guilty to conspiracy, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in the scheme, which used the names and Social Security numbers of unknowing nursing home residents to loot the tax system. Bogus deductions and credits were included on the false returns.
In addition to the prison term of 57 months, U.S. District Judge James J. Brady ordered Cage to serve two years of post-prison supervision by federal investigators.
Brady also told Cage she and two co-conspirators are jointly responsible for repayment of $930,737 to the IRS.
When Cage pleaded guilty, she admitted only to participation in the swindling of $242,079 from the IRS.
But agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation; the U.S. Secret Service; the Social Security Administration; the U.S. Probation Office; and Assistant U.S. Attorney Rich Bourgeois eventually pegged the loss at $930,737.
“I did not receive all that,” Cage insisted. She said she received $200 to $300 per false tax return.
J. David Bourland, Cage’s attorney, told the judge he explained to her that all people convicted in a conspiracy can be held jointly responsible for all stolen funds.
“It is unconscionable, what you did in this case,” Brady told Cage.
The judge added that the identity-theft victims could have suffered serious tax penalties if the perpetrators of the scam had not been discovered.
“We are hopeful that today’s sentence will have a strong deterrent effect on those who attempt to steal the identities of our citizens for the purpose of defrauding the U.S. Treasury,” U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. said in a written statement after the hearing.
Cazayoux added that Cage participated in the filing of 358 false tax returns.
Two other Baton Rouge women also have admitted participation in the fraud of nearly $1 million.
Clarissa T. Ayo, 33, was sentenced in April to nearly eight years in prison.
Levonne Stewart, 42, was sentenced in February to a four-year prison term.
“It was dead certain that at some point you would get caught,” Brady told Cage on Wednesday. “I don’t know what was going on in your head.”
The judge ordered Cage to report to federal prison on Oct. 10.