A Fraudster by Any Other Name

Blank notepad with tax form and calculator on white table. Top view. Space for text.

The scary thing about fraudsters is that they are often the people you’d be least likely to expect, like your boss or the girl next door. This is the case for one fraudster from Michigan, who was able to live a lie for years and defraud multiple employers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Sonja Lee Robinson has been sentenced in the Eastern District of Michigan to 65 months in prison for defrauding multiple employers out of more than $2.2 million and evading more than $697,000 in taxes. (The IRS tends to frown upon that kind of thing.)

Robinson carried out her tax fraud scheme using several aliases including Sonjalee Emery-Robinson and Sonijalee Emery while residing in California, Georgia, New Jersey and New York. (Her name isn’t the only thing she lied about.) Robinson defrauded employers from 2011 to 2018 by lying about her education and work history.

Part of Robinson’s scheme was centered around the claim that she was licensed as a registered nurse in Connecticut, California, Georgia, and New York. She corroborated this lie by providing employers with license numbers that belonged to legitimate nurses in those states.

Robinson also claimed that she had earned degrees from Emory University and New York University. Robinson never attended those schools and did not receive the degrees that she listed, including a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a Master’s in Health Administration, a Master’s in Business Administration, and a Philosophy doctorate. (I can see why she was able to land lucrative healthcare positions. If legitimate, that resume would have been stellar.)  

These fraudulent qualifications allowed Robinson to work in several prestigious positions within the healthcare field. Robinson’s position as senior vice president of an Ann Arbor healthcare consulting firm paid her approximately $285,000 a year. (Little did they know that she was about as qualified as an eighth grader.)

A few of her other positions included being a consultant for a community health system in Wisconsin earning approximately $267,000, and a healthcare consultant for a Massachusetts company that paid her approximately $226,000. (Robinson shouldn’t even be able to offer consultation about a scraped knee, let alone for a community health system.)

Robinson was working as a senior executive for a county government health services agency from 2015 until the time she was arrested in May 2018. (She managed to scam that agency into paying her $960,000 during the course of her employment.)  She either failed to file tax returns or filed late tax returns for her multiple positions despite owing more than $400,000 to Uncle Sam. Robinson avoided suspicion from employers by using various fictitious names and fake Social Security Numbers. Robinson lied to each employer stating that she was exempt from paying taxes for a variety of reasons.

Robinson was sentenced to 65 months in prison for pleading guilty to mail fraud and tax evasion. She was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release, as well as pay restitution to her former employers in the amount of $2.2 million. (They never agreed to pay the salary of a fraudster.) Robinson also owes $697,000 in restitution to the United States.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an article, “Imposter nurse sentenced to prison for tax evasion and fraud,” published by WILX10 on October 28, 2020.

WASHINGTON (WILX) – Wednesday the United States Department of Justice announced a nurse formerly employed by an Ann Arbor health care consultancy has been sentenced to 65 months in prison.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Schneider for the Eastern District of Michigan. Announced that Sonja Emery, 55 defrauded employers of over $2.2 million and evaded more than $697,000 in taxes.




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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.