GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Callista Suzena Chiwocha was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 10 years in federal prison for conspiring to defraud the government by filing false tax returns.
Chiwocha was also ordered to pay more than $3.6 million back in restitution to the IRS. Chiwocha, her husband Albert Chiwocha Sr. and their company -- Human Services Associates, LCC -- pleaded guilty back in March. Tapera passed away in July 2017 before the sentencing, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Over about ten months in 2011, Callista and her husband filed 3,228 false tax returns on behalf of others with the IRS. They requested more that $4.5 million in federal tax refunds from the U.S. Treasury.
The couple and other who worked for Human Services Associates, LCC tricked people into giving up personal information after being promised "free stimulus money," the release explained. The company was created to conceal their scam.
During a search warrant at the couple's home and business in 2011, investigators seized twenty banks accounts traced back to the scam, cash, four vehicles they had purchased with the tax refund money. Authorities recovered more than $1.5 million.
Callista had prior work experience in the banking and tax return preparation industries -- which U.S. District Judge Jonker said helped her facilitate the scheme. The Chiwochas' scam "preyed on the poorest and most vulnerable citizens of the district," the release said.
“This may have been Ms. Chiwocha’s first experience breaking the law," Jonker went on. "But she did it in a big way.”
Investigative records show that shortly before starting the tax fraud scam, the Chiwochas were delinquent on their home mortgage payments and had been going to casinos.
Authorities say the tax refund scam was an "extended family enterprise" that lead to the prosecution of five other family members.
- Tsiidzoyedu Callista Chiwocha, the couple's daughter, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison.
- Takabvako Chiwocha-Crowell, another daughter, was sentenced to 42 months incarceration.
- Imran Dawood Ibn-Abdurrahim, the couple's grandson, was sentenced to 54 months in prison.
- Qasim Ibn-Ishaq Verse, another grandson, was sentenced to 36 months in prison.
- Ruqayya Aida Abdul-Hakim, the couple's granddaughter, was sentenced to 72 months in prison.
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