GA man’s computer program automated tax refund fraud: Feds

Georgia computer business owner, 44, is going to jail after being charged with stealing more than $600,000 in federal tax refunds using a computer program he has created.

Kevin Kirton, of Dallas, Georgia, was sentenced on March 14 to six years and nine months behind bars after pleading guilty to charges of access device fraud and aggravated identity theft the year last, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia said in a news release. Prosecutors said the charges stemmed from Kirton’s elaborate scheme to defraud the Internal Revenue Service involving a computer program he built and stole personal information.

“The computer program stored stolen identities and could be used to submit fraudulent tax returns on behalf of the stolen identities to the IRS, effectively automating stolen identity tax refund fraud,” the government said.

Kirton has remained in jail since his bail was revoked in December 2020 and could not be reached for comment.

A defense attorney representing him told McClatchy News on March 21 that he had “accepted responsibility for his role in this offense and expressed in court his remorse and willingness to make restitution.”

“Kirton has created technical ‘solutions’ to conduct his own fraud schemes and help others commit fraud,” U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine said in the statement. “Each thief believes they have developed a new, undetectable method of stealing. As they do, they will be arrested, prosecuted, and face years in federal prison to think about their failed attempt.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Kirton’s program was accessed remotely via the Internet. Once a false tax return was prepared and submitted, refunds would have been issued using prepaid debit cards.

Kirton hid his IP address each time he accessed the program, prosecutors said, making it difficult for the IRS to trace a tax return to “a particular point of origin.”

“Kirton also set up a counterfeit phone system that he claimed would not be susceptible to wiretapping to communicate with other criminals,” the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Investigators searched Kirton’s home in January 2014, where they allegedly found more than 500 prepaid debit cards issued in the names of various identity theft victims. Prosecutors said the debit cards were linked to fraudulent federal tax returns that demanded more than $900,000 in reimbursement.

The IRS ultimately paid about $600,000 of those refunds, the government said.

According to the press release, Kirton was also found in possession of a booklet titled “Income Verification and Withholding Processes Lead to the Issuance of Potentially Fraudulent Tax Refunds.”

A grand jury indicted him in January 2019 and he was released on bail, according to court documents.

But in the months that followed, prosecutors said Kirton made “veiled threats” during phone conversations with a man in a Georgia jail about a witness in his case. He was heard threatening to address the media with a briefing on the witness if he was “still whistleblowing”, according to court documents.

“He’s gonna act the way he’s gonna act,” Kirton said. “And I don’t mean to slander anyone, but God knows if I needed a title, it would be a title.”

Prosecutors presented the recorded phone conversations and prison records to a grand jury, which returned a superseding indictment in January 2020 to add charges of witness tampering and obstruction of justice. A judge later revoked Kirton’s bail and sent him back to jail, saying he posed a danger to the community.

He entered into a plea deal in June 2021.

The government agreed to a reduction in his prison sentence because Kirton allegedly offered credible counsel in another case.

Kirton’s defense attorney had asked for a bigger discount because he had served as a confidential informant for nearly two years before being charged.

She said Kirton also ran a successful IT business with a “list of loyal customers.”

“Mr. Kirton has proven himself capable of being a functioning member of society,” his attorney said in the sentencing papers. “A sentence that allows him to reintegrate into society within a reasonable time and to Earning money so he can make substantial payments toward restitution is good for all parties.”

However, prosecutors told the judge that his alleged crimes were “very sophisticated both in execution and concealment”.

The judge ultimately sided with the government and sentenced Kirton to 81 months in prison with three years of probation. He was also ordered to pay $629,551 in restitution.

This story was originally published March 21, 2022 4:11 p.m.

Hayley Fowler is a reporter for The Charlotte Observer, covering breaking news and real-time news across North and South Carolina. She holds a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and previously worked as a legal reporter in New York City before joining the Observer in 2019.

Gordon K. Morehouse