Westerville News & Public Opinion

Westerville man sentenced in tax scheme

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After carrying out a fraudulent federal income tax refund scheme for four years, Westerville's Roma L. Sims was sentenced last week to more than eight years in prison and ordered to pay back more than $3.5 million.

Sims, 35, of Flagstone Square pleaded guilty Sept. 27, 2013, to committing aggravated identity theft and wire fraud and conspiring to commit identity theft in a scheme to defraud the Internal Revenue Service, according to an IRS press release. On Thursday, Aug. 21, he was sentenced to 100 months in prison and three years of supervised release by U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus.

According to The Columbus Dispatch, it was Sims' third sentencing hearing. The first was continued because of a dispute about restitution. After Sims showed up drunk for a second hearing last week, Sargus ordered him jailed until the Aug. 21 court date.

According to court documents, Sims and two other people carried out various schemes from 2009 to 2013 under several different business names, netting more than $3.5 million in tax refunds from victims whose identities were stolen.

"The conspiracy involved the preparation and electronic filing of fraudulent income tax returns with the IRS primarily on behalf of innocent persons from whom personal identification information had been collected," an IRS press release said.

Sims worked with Samantha C. Towns, 32, of John Steven Way in Reynoldsburg, and Robert S. Earthman, 32, of Lexington, Ky.

According to the Dispatch, Towns pleaded guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and was sentenced last year to three years of probation, including six months of home confinement. Earthman pleaded guilty in June to one count of identity theft and was sentenced to two years in prison.

Sims' restitution includes $1.3 million the defendants were ordered to pay jointly, while Sims is solely responsible for the remaining $2.2 million, the Dispatch said.

In one 2010 case, according to the IRS, Sims posed as a church giving money to needy families and posted on Craigslist.

"We are The Church of our Lord Jesus Christ," one ad read. "This month our tithes and offerings will go to the homeless and unemployed families with small children. You must not have a source of income or have received an income tax refund. Please call our prayer hotline."

Sims also placed ads in employment newspapers. One read, "Unemployed Parents Receive Income Tax Return, $1,500 for 1 child, $3,000 for 2 Children and $4,000 for 3 children, CALL NOW."

Authorities caught on to the schemes when they noticed misspelled names of multiple major cities, including "Louieville" and "Pittsburg."

According to IRS acting special agent in charge Kathy A. Enstrom, Sims "perpetuated an elaborate scheme driven by insatiable greed and a blatant disregard for the tremendous damage inflicted on innocent victims."

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