Walla Walla woman sentenced in tax fraud

Melissa N. Sherrill will serve 16 months in prison followed by a three-year term of court supervision.


A second Walla Walla resident has been sentenced for her role in a tax fraud scheme that reportedly involved the identities of numerous local people.

Melissa N. Sherrill, 34, has been ordered by a federal court to serve 16 months in prison followed by a three-year term of court supervision after her release, according to an announcement Friday from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Sherrill was also ordered to pay $50,121 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service. That amount is to be paid jointly and severally with co-defendant Earnest J. Allen, who pleaded guilty for his part in the scheme last September and was sentenced to 30 months in prison last December. Allen's sentence also includes three years of court supervision after his release.

According to court filings, Sherrill and Allen filed 34 false claims for income tax refunds totaling $161,803. Seventeen of those claims totaling $111,682 were prevented by the IRS's Fraud Detection Center. But 17 refund checks totaling $50,121 were issued. The claims were reportedly filed between 2000 and 2005.

To perpetuate the scheme, officials said Allen and Sherrill used their own names and Social Security numbers, as well as the names and Social Security numbers of other people to create false tax returns and claims for income tax refunds.

Officials have said stolen identities from various residences in Walla Walla were used to create the false returns. The Internal Revenue Service reportedly began investigating the case years ago before first arresting Allen last July with help from the Walla Walla Police Department and the Special Teams Unit.

In a prepared statement Friday, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington Michael C. Ormsby said those who attempt to defraud the U.S. Treasury face "stiff consequences for their action."

"As all of us prepare our own tax returns and pay what is owed to the Internal Revenue Service, it is important to know that those who don't are held accountable," Ormsby said.


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