From Beans to a Billion Behind Bars

40197797 - taxes concept. word on folder register of card index. selective focus.

We always hear crazy stories about how people landed in prison. Take one New York resident, for example, who was imprisoned first at the age of 18 and sentenced for possession of stolen property. So what exactly did this young man steal? A truck full of canned beans off a street in Buffalo – yes…you read that right. (This is great – theft of a truckload of beans in Buffalo. Where the heck do you fence a truck load of beans? With that much gas, this kid could’ve become the next major domestic supplier.) So how did a bean thief find himself responsible for false tax refund claims of up to nearly $1 billion?

It’s like a ”rags to riches” story – except substitute beans for rags and skip the happy ending. According to, one New York inmate has discovered that it does not pay to file false tax refunds from prison. Here’s the basic story? in 2007, he filed a false tax return, claiming he had earned $500k during 2006 – except he was incarcerated at that time and couldn’t have been gainfully employed. (Oops.? The IRS then sent the inmate a refund check in the amount of $327,456 – c/o the Camp Gabriels Correction Facility in Upstate New York. (Apparently they were playing Jail House Rock that day!? Employees of the State Department of Corrections intercepted the mail, and reported the suspicious refund as fraud to the IRS, claiming him a ”Frivolous Filer.’? But the inmate wasn’t done yet. He went on to file 11 more false returns, even claiming refunds as high as $2 million. His fame spread through the jail, and he assisted other inmates with filing false refund claims. (That’s Professor to you!? It was even recorded that he assisted one fellow inmate in filing a tax refund claiming $60 million; he was paid in stamps and canned food for his services. (What an awesome ROI on that deal)

So how did a bean thief become a billion-dollar idea man? His attorney’s claim he borrowed the idea from an article on the website, ”The America’s Bulletin,” a sovereign citizen website that offers ”Prison Packets” – instructions for prisoners to free themselves from jail. (Obviously this packet is not working so well for our inmate.)

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, ”Jailed Sovereign Citizen Convicted for Tax Fraud, After IRS Mails $327K Refund to Prison” written by Jillian Rayfield, published by, January 31, 2012.

A prison inmate in upstate New York was convicted on 11 counts of tax fraud after he filed — and partially received — tax returns worth around $890 million, using techniques he says he learned off of a sovereign citizen website.

Ronald Williams, dubbed the ”jailhouse CPA” by the Syracuse Post-Standard, was convicted last Thursday in District Court in New York of 11 counts of filing false claims for tax refunds, and on one additional count for assisting another prisoner in doing the same.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.