State employee pleads guilty to identity theft, conspiring to file false tax returns

Alabama State employee Natacia Webster pleaded guilty on Wednesday to stealing identity information from inmates while working for the state and to providing that information to a co-conspirator who used the identities to file false tax returns.

The Montgomery resident who worked for the Alabama Department of Corrections pleaded guilty to wire fraud, to aggravated identity theft, and to conspiring to defraud the United States by filing false claims, U.S. Attorney George Beck of the Middle District of Alabama announced in a news release Wednesday.

Webster, according to the indictment and other court documents, obtained identity information while working for the state in 2011 and provided the stolen prisoner identities to co-conspirator Melinda Clayton, who paid her for that information.

Clayton filed the false tax returns using the stolen identities and claimed the fraudulent tax refunds, which were directed to bank accounts and debit cards that the conspirators could access.

“These criminals need to be punished for the harm they cause to the person whose identity is stolen and the harm they cause to U.S. taxpayers,” Beck said in January when Webster was indicted.

Clayton, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 61 months in prison, and several others were indicted in April 2011.

A judge has not set a sentencing date for Webster. She faces a possible prison term of two years to 32 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and restitution and a fine of up to $750,000, which federal authorities said would be twice the loss caused by the offenses.

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