By JESSICA JERREAT
A mother of three, who taunted authorities to catch her as she stole about $20 million from the IRS, has been jailed for 21 years. Rashia Wilson, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft earlier this year, admitted to stealing more than $3 million but the figure is believed to be much higher. Tampa police were first alerted to the fraud in 2010 when they noticed a drop in drug dealing in the area. As Wilson, who became known as the 'First Lady of tax fraud' was sentenced on Tuesday, she was denied the chance to hug her three children, aged between 2 and 12, good-bye, according to the Tampa Bay Times. 'She knew what she was doing was wrong. She reveled in the fact that it was wrong,' U.S. District Judge James. S. Moody Jr. said.
The 27-year-old, who also pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, had boasted on Facebook that she was untouchable. 'I'm Rashia, the queen of IRS tax fraud,' the post stated. 'I'm a millionaire for the record, so if U think indicting me will B easy it won't, I promise you! U need more than black and white to hold me down N that's to da rat who went N told, as if 1st lady don't have da TPD under her spell. I run Tampa right now.' A psychologist brought in to testify for the defense argued the Facebook post was a sign of Wilson's bi-polar disorder, which made her liable to brag. Valerie McClain told the court that 'adolescent bragging' in Facebook posts is consistent with manic-phase behavior. Wilson had bi-polar diagnosed when she was 14.
Wilson's fraud was discovered during a two-year investigation called 'Operation Rain Maker', named in reference to all the money raining down on the suspects' mail boxes, according to ABC News. The multi-agency investigation included Tampa Police Department, IRS-Criminal Investigations, the Secret Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. Those involved in the tax fraud operation used stolen Social Security numbers to file returns, according to the Global Dispatch. The scam meant that ordinary taxpayers had to wait for up to a year to receive their refunds.
Wilson, whose mother was addicted to cocaine when she was born, and whose father was in prison while she was growing up, came from a life of poverty to extreme wealth. Although she still claimed food stamps during her fraud, she used the ill-gotten gains to fund a lavish lifestyle which included spending $30,000 on her son's first birthday, buying a $90,000 Audi and designer handbags and sunglasses. Wilson also had a custom-designed necklace, spelling out her name in jewels, made for her, according to Fox News. As well as finding designer goods at her home in Wimauma, police said the number of security cameras around the property had raised suspicions. Wilson has been ordered to $3.1 million in restitution.
The amount reflects the estimated loss to the government at the time of her plea. The investigation later found the figure to be higher but the judge agreed to honor the plea agreement. She will owe the restitution with co-defendant Maurice Larry, who has sentencing hearings due in August and September.
At the time of the investigation, 13 people were arrested for charges including identity theft, scheming to defraud and fraudulent use of credit cards. Tampa police major Ken Morman told ABC last year that a decline in drug dealing suggested criminals had found a more lucrative business. He said the suspects would use hotel rooms and rented houses to train recruits about how to commit the fraud.