Upshur County Couple Indicted for Identity Theft in Connection with CARES Act Economic Impact Payments
TYLER, Texas – U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Cox announced that the Eastern District of Texas indicted a couple from Gilmer and charged them with federal violations.
Dalton Brewer and Emilee Fenton, both 24, were indicted by a federal grand jury on August 19, 2020, and charged with conspiracy to unlawfully transfer, possess, and use a means of identification. The court also accused Fenton of theft of government money and aggravated identity theft.
According to the indictment, from at least November 2019 through June 2020, Brewer and Fenton conspired to possess and use the means of identification of other persons, including names, Social Security numbers, and dates of birth, in connection with the theft of government money, aggravated identity theft, wire fraud, theft of mail, and fraudulent use or possession of identifying information. They also charged Fenton with theft of government money and aggravated identity theft for her role in obtaining two Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) using the means of identifying other persons.
The CARES Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020, to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans suffering from the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act authorized over $2 trillion in relief programs, including approximately $560 billion for benefits to individuals. Congress allocated an estimated $300 billion of EIPs.
Under the CARES Act, qualifying individuals may receive up to $1,200 in EIPs per adult, up to $2,400 for married couples filing jointly, and $500 per child under 17 years old. Individuals with income exceeding $99,000 or joint filers whose income exceeds $198,000 do not qualify for any payment.
“Fraudsters engaged in identity theft to steal taxpayer refunds have now turned their attention to stealing Economic Impact Payments,” said U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Cox. “We are committed to fighting fraud and criminal activity relating to the COVID-19 pandemic – this is a top priority for the Eastern District of Texas – and, along with our law enforcement partners, we will use all available tools to pursue wrongdoers who seek to exploit the crisis.”
“It’s disheartening to see individuals and communities already facing challenges related to COVID-19 be targeted with crimes like these,” said Ketty Larco, Acting Inspector in Charge of the Fort Worth Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. “Protecting the U.S. Mail and American public are priorities for Postal Inspectors, however, and these arrests are a product of that commitment. The Postal Inspection Service appreciates the efforts of all our federal and local partners who helped bring this crime spree to an end.”
“The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), and its law enforcement partners, will aggressively pursue those who endeavor to steal Economic Impact Payments afforded to the American public under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act,” said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “We appreciate the efforts of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in this investigation.”
“IRS Criminal Investigation continues to pursue identity thieves who view the American taxpayer as an easy target,” said Acting Assistant Special Agent in Charge Marcus Henderson of the Dallas Field Office. “Today’s indictments highlight our commitment to protecting the very people the Economic Impact Payments were intended to benefit during this global crisis.”
If convicted, Brewer and Fenton face up to 15 years in federal prison. A grand jury indictment is not evidence of guilt.
This case is being investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI) and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathaniel C. Kummerfeld.