Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - A Philadelphia man was sentenced Wednesday to seven years in prison for conspiring to defraud the IRS and assisting others in filing false income tax returns.

On July 16, Albert Upshur, aka Kelinde Jaha, and a co-conspirator, Yolonda Thompson, aka Qhama Al, were found guilty at a bench trial of one count each of conspiring to defraud the IRS and eight counts each of helping others to file false tax returns. According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, between 2009 and 2015, Upshur and Thompson attempted to obtain millions of dollars for themselves and other participants in a fraudulent debt relief scheme they referred to as the Debt Payoff Process. As part of the scheme, Thompson and Upshur formed the Yolonda Denise Thompson Living Trust (the Thompson Trust). Participants in the Debt Payoff Process were told that if they paid money to Upshur and filed tax returns and other documents Thompson prepared for them, they could access funds from the Thompson Trust to pay off their mortgages and other debts. In reality, the tax returns that Thompson prepared, and participants filed with the IRS fraudulently claimed income tax refunds that the scheme participants were not entitled to receive. The false tax returns collectively sought fraudulent IRS refunds of more than $300 million.

The evidence at trial also established that after the IRS began to investigate the Debt Payoff Process, Upshur and Thompson attempted to obtain money from the IRS by other fraudulent means, including using checks drawn on closed bank accounts and trying to use financial instruments such as fictitious bonds. The defendants also continued to file false tax returns for themselves and others after the IRS assessed civil penalties against them and notified them that they were under criminal investigation.

In addition to the term of imprisonment, U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone ordered Upshur to serve one year of supervised release. Thompson is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 15, 2022.

Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division made the announcement. He thanked 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. Carpenter of the Justice Department’s Tax Division prosecuted the case