Women Accused of Stealing Nearly $290k in Tax Refunds

Women stole info from roughly 60 clients, prosecutors say

Tuesday, Mar 23, 2010  |  Updated 11:30 PM CDT
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Rosetta Yvonne Buchanan and Francesca Foster face charges of stealing information from about 60 clients to file false tax returns, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Hammond.

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A northwest Indiana businesswoman got a hefty tax return this year -- almost $300,000 -- but federal officials say the money actually belongs to her clients.

Rosetta Yvonne Buchanan and Francesca Foster face charges of stealing information from about 60 clients to file false tax returns, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Hammond.

Foster works for H&R Block in East Chicago and had access to all of the clients' personal information, such as Social Security numbers, addresses and wages, according to the complaint.  Authorities say she used the information to file early tax returns through an online company and provided various bank accounts in which the tax refunds should be deposited.

Not all of the accounts were real, though, and checks were issued to addresses close to the real address but with nonexistent house numbers, according to the complaint.

Police discovered that $289,871 had been deposited into 17 accounts by the U.S. Treasury, Indiana Department of Revenue and one from the Minnesota Department of Revenue. Withdrawals from one of the accounts had been made at various locations in Wisconsin, according to the complaint.

Foster's deeds did not go unnoticed, as clients began to file their tax returns for 2009. One client contacted East Chicago police after the IRS rejected his return, saying one had already been filed with his Social Security number.

They were arrested when someone reported a driver weaving in and out of traffic last week.  When pulled over, an officer saw several documents and debit cards.  The women later admitted the items were related to identity theft, the complaint said.

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