A 32-year-old Lincolnton woman is the latest person to be sentenced by the federal government in what prosecutors say was an income tax fraud scheme that stretched into Puerto Rico.
Authorities say Arileyda Amparo was sentenced Tuesday in federal court to 37 months in prison, after pleading guilty in January to conspiracy to defraud the government.
Five other Lincoln County residents were sentenced earlier in the case. Prosecutors continue to look for a seventh suspect in the case, 24-year-old John Vargas of Hickory.
According to the government, the defendants obtained stolen identity information, including names and Social Security numbers of people living in Puerto Rico. Investigators say the seven suspects picked addresses where there were clustered mailboxes -- then watched on the Internet to see when the checks might be delivered, and took the refund checks out of the mailboxes.
Federal officials say the defendants filed claims for returns totaling more than $5 million before being arrested in mid-February 2011.
U.S. District Judge Robert Conrad called the scheme “long-term concerted criminal activity” in issuing the sentence. The prison terms are served without the possibility of parole.
Sentenced earlier were: Ziomara Amparo, 35, of Lincolnton (18 months in prison); Mildred DePena, 49, of Lincolnton (12 months and one day); Jose de Jesus, also known as Jose Ramos, 30, of Vale (37 months); Nelson Jimenez, 52, Lincolnton (15 months); and Dania Ramos, 36, Lincolnton (48 months).