From staff reports
BIRMINGHAM – A federal judge today sentenced an Irondale man to seven years in prison for identity theft and stealing about $1.7 million in U.S. Treasury checks, U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance, FBI Special Agent in Charge Roger C. Stanton and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Veronica Hyman-Pillot announced today.
Craig Montrail Eaton, 47, pleaded guilty late last year to one count each of theft of government funds and aggravated identity theft. U.S. District Judge Karon O. Bowdre sentenced Eatmon to five years in prison for the theft of treasury checks and two years for the identity theft. The sentence for aggravated identity theft must be served after completion of any other sentence imposed in the case. The judge also ordered Eatmon to pay $1.02 million in restitution to the U.S. Treasury, and to forfeit $442,127 to the government as proceeds of illegal activity.
“Mr. Eatmon deposited 44 fraudulent or stolen U.S. Treasury checks in his bank account within less than a year to steal more than $1 million from the government and delay rightful tax returns to legitimate tax payers,” Vance said. “He also stole an individual’s identity and created a bank account in the victim’s name so he could deposit a $151,000 stolen tax-refund check and access the money. The FBI, IRS-CI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office have shut off his criminal activity and, today, the prison door swings shut on Mr. Eatmon for a long time.”
“The FBI will continue to work cooperatively to investigate stolen identity tax refund fraud,” Stanton said. “These crimes not only victimize law-abiding individuals, but all honest U.S. taxpayers who ultimately foot the bill for this stolen revenue.”
“Craig Eatmon perpetrated a scheme that was fueled by greed, deceit, dishonesty and theft,” Hyman-Pillot said. “He made a profit at the expense of the United States Treasury and other taxpayers. However, it didn’t pay dividends. The penalty for his deception and theft is imprisonment.”
Eatmon has two prior convictions in federal court in the Northern District of Alabama for bank fraud, unauthorized use of an access device and fraud with identification documents. He also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine in a second case before Judge Bowdre. She sentenced him today to five years in prison on that case, with the sentence to be served at the same time as his sentence for theft of government funds.
According to documents filed with the court, Eatmon conducted the government funds and identity thefts as follows:
He was the sole signatory on accounts for Executive Investors Group at Wells Fargo Bank. Between May 2011 and July 2012, about $1.7 million in U.S. Treasury checks were deposited into the EIG accounts. Wells Fargo seized $633,573 of that money in October 2011 and returned it to the treasury. The deposited checks were a combination of tax refund checks issued as a result of false federal income tax returns that had been filed, or legitimate but stolen refund checks.
Eatmon also sold two treasury checks to an undercover FBI agent. One of the checks was for $9,001 and the other for $11,330 and both were made payable to individuals other than Eatmon.
Eatmon obtained a $151,000 tax refund check made payable to a South Florida resident. He enlisted the help of a Wells Fargo employee to open an account in the name of an existing bank customer whose last name matched the name on the check. Eatmon had the check deposited into the new account and, after it cleared, either he or someone acting on his behalf, withdrew $87,240 from the account.
The FBI, IRS-CI and the Etowah County Drug Enforcement Unit investigated the cases, which Assistant U.S. Attorneys Davis Barlow and John B. Felton prosecuted.