Guilty plea

An El Dorado man entered a guilty plea in U.S. District Court to charges involving identity theft.

EL DORADO -- Michael Hearns, 55, of El Dorado, appeared before Federal Judge Susan O. Hickey last week to enter a plea of guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States with respect to claims involving identity theft.

According to court documents, Hearns was a U.S. Postal Service mail carrier who was part of a stolen identity refund fraud conspiracy.

From January 2010 until December 2012, Hearns conspired with Venus Ford, Whitney Charles, and others to fraudulently obtain money from the U.S. Treasury by filing false federal income tax returns in the names of others without their knowledge or consent.

Hearns provided addresses along his postal route to Ford, Charles and others for the purpose of having the fraudulently-obtained federal income tax refunds mailed to those addresses.

Ford, Charles and others filed false tax returns using stolen identities and directed the fraudulent tax refunds to debit cards and United States Treasury checks that were mailed to addresses on Hearns’ postal route in El Dorado.

Hearns retrieved the debit cards and United States Treasury checks from the mail and, for a fee, provided them to the co-conspirators.

Co-defendants Shawn D. Carey, Clarisse Carey, Erica Browning, Gregory Taylor, Ecko Scott, and Sanjana Aaron were sentenced in January 2016 and June 2017 to a total of over 16 years imprisonment. Ford and Charles have pled guilty to their part of the conspiracy and are awaiting sentencing.

Hearns will be sentenced at a later date. His sentence will be determined by the court after review of factors unique to this case. The sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum of 10 years imprisonment, and in most cases will be less than the maximum.

The investigation was conducted by IRS Criminal Investigation, U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General, and the El Dorado Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brice White and Amanda Donat are prosecuting the case for the United States.

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