A federal judge convicted two Philadelphia residents at a bench trial of conspiring to defraud the United States and aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, between 2010 and 2013, Yolonda Thompson, also known as Qhama Al, and Albert Upshur, also known as Kelinde Jaha, attempted to obtain millions of dollars for themselves and other participants in a fraudulent debt-relief scheme. As part of the scheme, which they named the Debt Payoff Program, Thompson and Upshur formed the Yolonda Denise Thompson Living Trust. Participants in the Debt Payoff Program were told that if they paid money to Upshur and filed tax returns and other documents that Thompson prepared for them, they could access funds from the trust to pay off their mortgages and other debts. In reality, the tax returns that Thompson prepared and that participants filed with the IRS fraudulently claimed income tax refunds that the scheme participants were not entitled to receive. The false tax returns introduced into evidence at trial collectively sought tax refunds of more than $300 million.
The evidence at trial also established that after the IRS began to investigate the Debt Payoff Program, Thompson and Upshur attempted to obtain money from the IRS by other fraudulent means, including using checks drawn on closed bank accounts and fake financial instruments. Even after the IRS assessed civil penalties against Thompson and Upshur, and notified them that they were under criminal investigation, both defendants continued to file false returns and other tax documents for themselves and other.
Thompson and Upshur are scheduled to be sentenced at a later date and face a maximum penalty of five years in prison for the conspiracy count and three years in prison for each false return count. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division made the announcement. He thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which provided support in the investigation and prosecution of this case.
IRS Criminal Investigation investigated the case.
Trial Attorneys Melissa S. Siskind and Kathryn D. Sparks of the Justice Department’s Tax Division are prosecuting the case.