TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced the indictment of 24 New Jersey residents – including a tax preparer, her husband, and relatives and friends of the couple – on charges that they stole hundreds of thousands of dollars by filing fraudulent tax returns with the State of Hawaii in order to obtain refunds. They allegedly attempted to steal over $400,000, but because some of the filings were denied, the actual loss to the State of Hawaii was $246,667.
The defendants were indicted in “Operation Coast to Coast,” a joint investigation by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, New Jersey State Police Cyber Crimes Unit, New Jersey Division of Taxation-Office of Criminal Investigation, and State of Hawaii Department of Taxation. The investigation began with a referral from the Hawaii Department of Taxation, which identified a number of New Jersey residents who fraudulently obtained tax refunds.
The alleged leader of the scheme, Mylove D. Tetterton, 44, of East Orange, N.J., is charged in the indictment with promoting organized street crime, a first-degree crime that carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison. She owns and operates a tax preparation service in Jersey City called Mylove’s Tax Service. Tetterton allegedly filed 65 fraudulent Hawaii tax returns for tax year 2013 for individuals who never resided in or earned wages in Hawaii. She allegedly used personal identifying information that was obtained from co-conspirators or stolen, including personal identifying information of people who were deceased. Tetterton allegedly used much of the stolen money to gamble in Atlantic City.
Tetterton allegedly had the refund checks sent to addresses associated with her or her co-conspirators. It is alleged that she cashed only a few checks herself, but directed her co-conspirators to cash or deposit the checks and turn over a large share of the money to her. Her husband, Anthony Hodges, 43, of East Orange, allegedly assisted in leading the scheme, acting as her “money man” and collecting proceeds of the refund checks from the other co-conspirators. Several relatives of the couple also are charged, including Hodges’s sister Rosetta Hodges, 36, and three children of Tetterton: daughter Mylove A. Tetterton, 26, son Khyreq Tetterton, 25, and adopted son, Kaseem Stephens, 25.
The state grand jury indictment, which was secured yesterday by the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau, charges all 24 defendants with second-degree counts of conspiracy, trafficking in personal identifying information of another, theft by deception, receiving stolen property, and money laundering. All defendants also are charged with third-degree forgery.
“Tetterton allegedly was prolific in filing false tax returns, recruiting a crew of relatives and friends to convert nearly a quarter of a million dollars in ill-gotten refund checks into cash,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Fraud of this type is costly to taxpayers everywhere, and I am gratified that, working with special agents in Hawaii, we were able to uncover this scheme and bring those responsible to justice.”
“Just as we aggressively prosecute those who steal from the State of New Jersey and its taxpayers, we stand ready to investigate and charge those who engage in tax fraud that crosses jurisdictional lines,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “This indictment is the result of great collaboration among the attorneys in our Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau, detectives in the New Jersey State Police Cyber Crimes Unit, and special agents in New Jersey and Hawaii.”
“Tetterton fraudulently filed more than 60 tax returns by using the identities of other people, some of whom were deceased,” said Colonel Patrick Callahan, Acting Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “Tax fraud is not a victimless crime, and the detectives in our Cyber Crimes Unit will continue to work collaboratively with our law enforcement partners to ensure that these crimes are thoroughly investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
“Tax fraud is a serious crime that undermines government and harms hardworking, law-abiding taxpayers everywhere. It’s reassuring to know that we have outstanding public servants across multiple government agencies who are committed to rooting out this fraud. I want to thank everyone involved in this joint investigation – from the Attorney General’s Office, to the State Police, to our Division of Taxation and the Hawaii Department of Taxation – for their commitment and collaboration,” said New Jersey State Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio.
“Identity theft and the issuance of fraudulent income tax refunds have been both a state and national problem for decades,” said Linda Chu Takayama, Director of the Hawaii Department of Taxation. “To address tax fraud, Hawaii Governor David Ige made it a priority to hold criminals accountable for their actions and directed the State of Hawaii's Department of the Attorney General and the Department of Taxation to increase their enforcement efforts. I applaud the cooperation between New Jersey law enforcement agencies and Hawaii law enforcement agencies, which enabled both Hawaii and New Jersey to pursue and prosecute those who defraud and steal from the people of our states.”
Deputy Attorneys General Brandy T. Malfitano and Marie G. McGovern presented the indictment to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. They were assisted by Analyst Nathalie Kurzawa. Attorney General Grewal commended the members of the Division of Criminal Justice assigned to the case, as well as the Detectives of the New Jersey State Police Cyber Crimes Unit, Special Agents of the Financial Crimes Unit of the New Jersey Division of Taxation-Office of Criminal Investigation, and Special Agents of the Hawaii Department of Taxation who conducted the investigation. Lead Special Agent Albert Piepszak and Chief Special Agent Jordan Lowe were lead investigators for the Criminal Investigation Section of the Hawaii Department of Taxation.
First-degree crimes carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000, while second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Peter E. Warshaw in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Hudson County, where the defendants will be ordered to appear for arraignment at a later date.
The following is a full list of the defendants charged in the indictment:
For Mylove D. Tetterton: Wanda Akin, Esq., Newark, N.J.
For Anthony Hodges: Gwendolyn O. Austin, Esq., Newark, N.J.
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