Woman, 34, Indicted in $300,000 Income Tax Scheme
There was nothing about Barbara Ann Woods’ life style that gave any hint she had allegedly devised a scheme to cheat the government out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
But authorities said Wednesday that the 34-year-old Woods, who drives a 1975 Honda and has lived in the same modest Pico-La Brea neighborhood with her probation officer husband for 15 years, was involved in one of the largest income tax return frauds ever uncovered in Southern California.
She was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that she filed more than 100 fraudulent income tax returns claiming $300,000 in refunds.
Woods actually had received about $50,000 in state income tax refunds by the time agents from the Internal Revenue Service and state Franchise Tax Board arrested her, according to court documents. Investigators said that because of IRS computer delays, she had not yet received federal tax refunds.
U.S. Postal Inspector Jill Crivelli said a search of Woods’ home at the time of her arrest June 4 revealed evidence that she had been engaged in the scheme for the last four years. The indictment returned Tuesday charges her only with filing fraudulent returns for 1984.
Crivelli said the search of Woods’ small home office revealed that the woman had “at least eight alter egos” with a variety of false identification, including driver’s licenses and credit cards. She also had opened numerous bank accounts.
The indictment alleges Woods maintained at least 13 post office boxes around the Los Angeles area in the name of “Patricia Bassett” and used numerous other mail box drop locations to receive checks under as many as 100 aliases.
Woods is accused of filing W-2 forms under the fictitious names of women with ages ranging from 30 to 43 who reportedly were employed by USC, UCLA, Los Angeles County, the McDonnell Douglas aerospace firm and the Montgomery Ward department store chain.
In the affidavit supporting the search warrant, agents said Woods frequently used the alias of “Rosa Reed, attorney at law,” and told post office employees she was a lawyer picking up mail for clients.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Sharon Ellingsen, the prosecutor handling the case, said Woods, posing as an attorney, gave postal workers a long list of people for whom she claimed to be accepting mail.
Ellingsen said authorities began investigating Woods’ activities six weeks ago after receiving a tip from a suspicious employee at one of the private mail receiving stations where Woods rented a box.
Woods is charged with 15 counts of filing false tax returns and 15 counts of mail fraud. If convicted, she faces a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment and a $10,000 fine on each false tax claim charge, and five years in prison and a $1,000 fine on each mail fraud count.
She is free on $20,000 bail pending a July 1 arraignment.