GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan, US – An Okemos woman has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for defrauding the government out of $3.6 million by filing false tax returns.
Callista Suzena Chiwocha, 64, and her late husband Tapera Albert Chiwocha caused 3,228 false tax returns to be filed on behalf of others through their company Human Services Associates, LLC, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the couple’s company was created to conceal the scam to help people get “Obama stimulus money.” The couple was investigated for six years, after receiving complaints about the couple.
Before starting the “scheme” records showed the Chiwochas “were delinquent on their home mortgage payments and had been frequenting casinos,” according to the release.
The couple requested over $4.5 million in federal tax refunds through those returns, the release stated.
“The Chiwochas and those who worked for them at Human Services Associates, LLC tricked individuals into providing their personal identification information after being promised ‘free stimulus money,” according to the release.
The returns that were filed “typically contained false reporting of undocumented income and abusive use of the earned income credit,” said the release.
The Chiwochas plead guilty to in March. Tapera Albert Chiwocha, Sr., 75, a former Lansing Community College history professor, passed away in July.
Callista Suzena Chiwocha, who was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, was also ordered to pay restitution of $3.6 million.
In earlier prosecutions, two of the couple’s daughters and three of their grandchildren pleaded guilty to related charges and were issued prison sentences ranging from 366 days to six years.