TAMPA — He may have been her partner in crime, joining forces to steal millions from federal taxpayers.
He may have spent time at her house and shared “romantic liaisons.”
But Maurice Larry wants people to know he most definitely was not the boyfriend of Rashia Wilson, Tampa’s notorious self-dubbed Queen of Tax Fraud.
Wilson, who became known for her brazen Facebook postings taunting authorities about the millions she was stealing from taxpayers through stolen identity tax refund fraud, was sentenced in July to 21 years in federal prison.
Larry, who spent $100,000 covering a Camaro in chrome, was sentenced Tuesday to 14 1/2 years in federal prison, a sentence he is to serve at the same time as an 8-year, 5-month sentence he received Monday in another tax refund fraud case.
“What we have here is a disgusting and ostentatious show of greed,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Mandy Riedel, “hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on cars and jewelry by individuals who haven’t worked.”
“It is an ugly crime, and I think he understands that,” said defense lawyer Grady Irvin.
Before he was sentenced, Larry apologized to the victims of his crime, as well as the court.
“I know I have a co-defendant in this case,” he added, “but I’d like to be sentenced for my actions.” And he added by asking for mercy.
U.S. District Judge James Moody asked, “When you were filing these fraudulent returns, what did you think was going to be the outcome?”
“I wasn’t thinking about that, sir,” Larry replied.
“What were you thinking about?”
“I was just living in the moment, I guess.”
Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor, who was not in court for the sentence, later said that Larry “was one of the more egregious violators that really flaunted it out in the community, thinking it was more of a game than a crime.”
His sentence, she said, “sends a loud and clear message that the days of doing tax fraud and thinking you can get away with it are over. These cases are very intensive, take a great deal of time and effort to investigate and prosecute, but anyone thinking of committing tax fraud needs to know that we are out there every day investigating these crimes and that they, too, will face a long prison sentence.”
During the hearing, Irvin tried to distance Larry, also known as “Thirst,” from Wilson, his notorious co-defendant, saying Larry didn’t even meet Wilson until less than a year before her tax fraud ended.
Contrary to reports, Irvin said, Larry did not live with Wilson, although he did have sex with her and commit fraud with her.
Riedel said she didn’t have an opinion on whether they two were romantically involved. But she said, investigators determined that Larry used debit cards loaded with funds obtained through fraudulent tax filings made by Wilson. Agents law Larry move personal items into Wilson’s house in July 2012, and when they searched the house later, Larry was there at 6 a.m.
Moreover, inside a storage unit rented by Larry, investigators found medical records identical to medical records found in Wilson’s house, along with ledgers of other personal identifiers used in tax refund fraud. And when investigators searched the trash at Wilson’s house, they found packaging material for debit cards found in Larry’s storage unit.
“Mr. Larry was just as involved as Ms. Wilson,” Riedel said.
Irvin said people who commit the fraud don’t see it as having any victims. They just think the government can write more checks.
Irvin said he explained to Larry that taxpayers whose identities are stolen have to deal with the consequences. At first, he said, the identities were of deceased individuals. But when those names were used, the criminals starting to use identities of the living.
“If it were dead people, it would be free money?” Moody asked incredulously.
“No,” Irvin said.
The criminals were stealing from other taxpayers. Irvin said when he explained to Larry that this was not a victimless crime, Larry told him, “I never thought of that.”
Larry’s sentence on Monday was for his tax refund fraud activity with Marterrance “Qat” Holloway, who is scheduled to be sentenced later this year. Larry and Holloway came under scrutiny in September 2010, when they became the first active fraud operation discovered by Tampa Police. When detectives entered a hotel room during a drug investigation, they smelled marijuana and saw drugs. After Holloway and several other people were removed from the hotel, officers found four laptop computers they said were being used to file fraudulent tax returns.
There also were lists of personal information with more than 1,000 names, as well as debit cards and financial records. Holloway ultimately faced only drug charges in that arrest as police struggled with the legal barriers while investigating tax fraud cases.
Tampa police called the IRS, but when they got an answering machine, contacted the Secret Service. For a time, the Secret Service teamed up with local law enforcement to try to find a way to investigate the fraud, while authorities expressed frustration with the IRS.
The IRS has since formed an alliance with other law enforcement agencies and become more aggressive in its pursuit of street criminals who commit stolen identity tax refund fraud.
Larry and Holloway, who were free for two years after that operation was discovered, eventually were arrested on federal charges to which both pleaded guilty.
Authorities said Larry, a high school dropout with five young children fathered out of wedlock, has been a jet-setter, flying between Miami, New York and Las Vegas. He and Holloway also drove expensive cars and wore pricey clothes.
“Money,” Irvin said Tuesday, “was being easily made. It became the new drug addiction in our community.”