Three Georgia women plead guilty to wire fraud that sent tax refunds to Pittsburgh

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Three Georgia women who played roles in an identity theft ring that steered fraudulently obtained tax refunds into Pittsburgh financial institutions pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy today and will be sentenced in September.

Heather A. Smith, 26, Beverly J. McHenry, 57, and Astrid P. Perry, 37, all of the Rome, Ga., area, played roles in a broader scheme that used stolen Social Security numbers, mostly from Georgia prisoners.

According to an IRS Criminal Investigations probe, the three were involved in the creation of fake accounting businesses. They and other co-conspirators then filed, electronically and through the mail, 595 fake tax returns seeking refunds totaling $2 million. Many were in the names of people who might not be expected to otherwise file returns, notably including prisoners.

They had the IRS send the returns to accounts in Pittsburgh, Memphis and Martinsburg, Va. Ms. Smith obtained around $411,000, Ms. McHenry $188,000 and Ms. Perry $37,000, according to assistant U.S. attorney Greg Melucci.

Ms. Smith was instructed in the fraud by a boyfriend who has been charged separately, Mr. Melucci told U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer.

Ms. Perry, who has a prior criminal record, is being held in the Allegheny County Jail. The other two women have no prior records, and were released pending sentencing.

Rich Lord: or 412-263-1542. Twitter: @richelord.

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