It takes a special kind of person to be a nurse. Caring for sick and aging members of our community is a noble profession, and nurses deserve more recognition than they often receive. Recently, the IRS recognized Tangela Lawson-Brown, a 41 year old nurse from Midway, Florida. Although the IRS didn’t acknowledge Lawson-Brown for her outstanding patient care. Instead they brought charges against her for stealing patient’s identities, from the nursing home she worked at, and filing fraudulent returns and absconding with the refunds.
In January 2013, following the arrest of Lawson-Brown’s husband, the Tallahassee Police Department seized items from her vehicle. Among the items, they discovered a notebook which contained personal identity information for over 150 people. An investigation conducted by the IRS found income tax returns were filed in 2011 for 105 of the people in the book. Of those 105 individuals, 24 were patients at a nursing home where Lawson-Brown had been employed from October 2011 to December 2012. Many of the fraudulent returns were filed within days of a patient arriving at the nursing home.
The IRS determined Lawson-Brown had filed over $1 million in fraudulent claims. Although the IRS was able to detect and deny many of the fraudulent returns, refunds of roughly $141,790 were disbursed. In the trial, the government presented evidence that showed the fraudulent refunds were deposited into multiple bank accounts controlled by Lawson-Brown. The former nurse used her ill-gotten gains to pay her mortgage, car repairs, and other personal expenses.
After a three-day trial, Lawson-Brown was convicted of wire fraud, theft of government funds, possession of unauthorized access devises, and aggravated identity theft. Her sentencing hearing is scheduled for early January. Lawson-Brown faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for each theft of government funds and possession of unauthorized access device counts, and a consecutive two-year sentence for aggravated identity theft.
Attempting to cheat the IRS is bad enough, but Lawson-Brown’s criminal activity becomes particularly despicable when you remember she took advantage of elderly and disabled patients who relied on her for care.