While serving time in a Tennessee penitentiary, inmate Larry Steven Covington, Jr. pled guilty to charges of conspiring to defraud the United States.
A second inmate, James Glenn Collins pleaded guilty to a similar scam in 2014, and it is said that he taught Covington how to work the scheme.
Records show that Collins obtained a roster of inmates that included personal identifying information and used it to file hundreds of tax returns claiming refunds. Most of these inmates had been unemployed for years and some had never worked a legal job in their adult life.
The two requested to have the refunds put on a debit-style card called Green Dot cards, which can be bought at retailers and are also used throughout the prison system to pay for contraband, transfer money or conduct transactions (mostly illegal) with people on the outside. All they need is a contraband cellphone to use the Green Dot card.
Although the IRS rejected over $1.8 million in claimed refunds, it paid out $163,778 to Covington and $150,465 to Collins. Both men had help from people outside the prison including Covington’s mother.
Collins was still in prison and given an additional 84 months to serve. Covington is on probation and scheduled to be sentenced in October.