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Judge sentences Kershaw woman to 30 months in prison for tax fraud

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By Chris Sardelli

 

COLUMBIA – Based on evidence presented in her tax fraud case, a Kershaw woman was sentenced to more than two years in prison on Friday, Nov. 22.

Penny Maria Smith, aka “Penny Maria Gardner” and “Penny Gardner Faile,” 51, was sentenced in federal court to 30 months in prison, according to a press release from U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles. 

Chief U.S. District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie of Columbia handed down the sentence. McGowan Currie also ordered Smith to make full restitution in the amount of $82,665 and imposed three years of supervised release, Nettles said.

Evidence presented at her change of plea hearing showed that Smith, a tax preparer, filed false tax returns using other people’s identifying information without their permission, the release said. 

Nettles said some of the victims had previously hired Smith to prepare and file their taxes, though she later used both their and their dependents’ identifying information.

In total, Smith admitted to filing 86 false claims with the IRS, totaling $82,665, the release said. 

According to the S.C. Judicial Department online case database, Smith was arrested in August 2010 on several counts of financial identity fraud and obtaining signature under false pretenses. 

During the sentencing hearing, the judge enhanced Smith’s sentence because she committed the crimes through use of her position of trust with the victims, the release said. 

The case was investigated by Internal Revenue Service criminal investigation agents, including Special Agent in Charge Jeannine A. Hammett.

“Identity theft is a growing problem given the widespread availability of personal information, and this defendant’s scheme provides a startling example of the ways that stolen personal information can be used to steal money,” Hammett said in the release. “Here, the crime is especially egregious because the defendant is a tax preparer, and she used her specialized knowledge to steal tax money paid by honest citizens.”

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jamie Lea Nabors Schoen of the Greenville office.