EAST ST. LOUIS — A 45-year-old Belleville woman, who lives in public housing and receives food stamps and a Social security disability check, is accused of filing fraudulent federal tax returns to receive more than $1 million.
The 12-count indictment against Dorresa L. Braggs alleges she made false statements to the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, filed false claims against the United States and committed aggravated identity theft by using a Social Security number of another while she was committing wire fraud to submit false tax returns.
Braggs, the mother of three children, stood motionless in front of Magistrate Judge Donald Wilkerson Friday and entered a not guilty plea. She is due back in court on May 5.
If she is convicted on Count 1 -- making false statements to a federal agent, she faces not more than five years in prison. On Counts 2 to 11, the filing of false claims, she also faces not more than five years in prison on each count. On Count 12, aggravated identity theft, she faces up to two years in prison.
The indictment charges that when she was brought in to be interviewed by investigators with the IRS in November, Braggs made false statements to the federal investigator who asked her whether she used her computer to file several hundred false federal tax returns.
During an interview with a special agent of the IRS, she denied she used a computer to file taxes. But she had software to file tax returns for other individuals over several years, the indictment said.
Braggs, starting in 2010 and continuing through the summer of 2012, prepared and submitted many false tax returns to obtain money from the IRS, the indictment says.
The IRS was conducting an investigation into several hundred false federal tax returns that were submitted electronically to the IRS by Internet addresses associated with Braggs and determined that false refunds were obtained by Braggs in excess of $1 million.
Through its Scheme Development Center, IRS officials researched databases to uncover Braggs' refund scheme.
The SDC linked tax returns filed by Braggs through her Internet address, wage amounts, federal tax withholding amounts, employers, occupations, electronically filed identification numbers and bank accounts, revealed her tax refund scheme, the indictment said.
Braggs used her computer to file all of the returns electronically. She claimed fraudulent wages on W-2 forms and income tax withholdings. In some cases, Braggs simply falsified the W-2 that she received from her clients to overstate wages and federal income tax withholding, the indictment said. And in other instances, Braggs fabricated an entire W-2 and reported false wage and federal tax withholdings.
On many of the returns, Braggs claimed false Schedule C business expenses/losses for clients. She also often applied for prepaid debit cards in her clients' names and had those cards sent to addresses that she controlled. The money she got back from the fraudulent tax returns was loaded onto the debit cards. She kept some or all of the money. In 2012, Braggs, assisted by another individual applied for pre-paid debit cards in client's names.
She did not list herself as the paid preparer where she was suppose to. And she failed to report the income she earned in 2010 and 2011 from preparing tax returns "because she wanted to continue to receive public aid in the form of food stamps and medical insurance," the indictment said.
Braggs lives in public housing controlled by the St. Clair County Housing Authority and she did not report the income she earned from preparing tax returns on the application that is on file with the housing authority. Braggs also collected Social Security disability payments, the indictment said.
In one instance, Braggs got from the IRS $4,927 on behalf of an individual identified in the indictment as D.T. The check was mailed to Braggs' address. Another time, she received $2,500 for falsely preparing tax returns for D.T. In another instance, involving D.T., Braggs got $2,114. For another individual, identified only as N.S., Braggs, through the scheme, got $5,327. For someone identified as S.M, she got a check for $5,382.
"S.M. observed Braggs prepare the return on a laptop computer in an apartment in Belleville on S.M.'s 2010 return," the indictment said. Braggs reported an address of 5518 Adelaide in Washington Park, which federal agents later learned was Braggs' parents address.
Braggs got a check for $9,199 for a client identified in the indictment as N.F. That individual also saw Braggs use a computer to file the tax return, the indictment said. For a client, identified as E.H, Braggs falsely filed returns to get a check totaling $9,826. On behalf of an individual identified as T.C., Braggs got a check for $9,635. For D.B., she got a check for more than $1,000.
Wilkerson let Braggs out on a $25,000 unsecured bond until her court date. He ordered her to stay out of casinos and to find and keep a legitimate job. She cannot incur any new debts, either, Wilkerson told her.
Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 618-239-2503.