SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A Springfield, Missouri, woman was sentenced in federal court today for her role in a conspiracy, led by a Christian County Jail inmate, to fraudulently claim more than $51,000 in income tax refunds.
Heather Nicole Neal, 35, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Roseann Ketchmark to two years and six months in federal prison without parole.
On Sept. 17, 2020, Neal pleaded guilty to her role in a conspiracy to defraud the government. Neal admitted that she conspired with John Dennis Sedersten, an inmate in the Christian County Jail in Ozark, Mo., and other co-conspirators to file fraudulent tax returns. All false claims but one were halted by the IRS, and the one refund issued was recovered by law enforcement agents.
Sedersten organized and led the conspiracy from within the jail. He provided his co-conspirators with specific instructions regarding how to complete and file the false federal income tax returns. The fraudulent tax returns included false W-2 information, listing employers who did not employ the individual listed on the return, and reporting wages not earned, employment taxes not withheld, and business expenses not incurred by the individual. Sedersten provided them with the EIN for JDS Enterprises, a company registered to Sedersten, under which they could report the false wages and withholdings.
Neal filed a tax return under her own name that fraudulently claimed a refund of $9,864.
Co-defendant Janet Renea Kirby, 34, of Springfield, has also pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing. Kirby filed a tax return under her own name that fraudulently claimed a refund of $18,427.
Sedersten, who pleaded guilty in a separate but related case, admitted that conspirators filed fraudulent returns that sought a total of $373,372 in refunds. Sedersten was sentenced on Aug. 17, 2016, to six years and six months in federal prison without parole for his role in the conspiracy.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Casey Clark and Steven Mohlhenrich. It was investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation.