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Inmate accused of getting bogus tax refunds from behind bars

A recently-released inmate was rearrested on charges he fraudulently obtained more than $171,000 in state income tax refunds, mostly while he was incarcerated


By Michael Kunzelman
Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. — A man recently released from federal prison has been rearrested in Louisiana on charges he fraudulently obtained more than $171,000 in state income tax refunds, mostly while he was incarcerated.

John Michael McConnell, 39, was arrested Friday on charges of theft and filing or maintaining false public records, the state Department of Revenue said in a news release Tuesday.

This undated photo provided by the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, LA., shows John Michael McConnell under arrest. (East Baton Rouge Parish Prison via AP)
This undated photo provided by the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, LA., shows John Michael McConnell under arrest. (East Baton Rouge Parish Prison via AP)

U.S. Bureau of Prisons online records indicate McConnell was released from federal custody Friday, the same day he was jailed in Baton Rouge on the new charges.

McConnell is accused of fabricating documents in submitting numerous phony state income tax returns between 2010 and 2017. He used post office boxes, girlfriends' home addresses and the address for his parents' Texas business as his home addresses on the bogus returns, the revenue department said.

McConnell had been incarcerated since 2011 and submitted all but one of the false returns while he was an inmate in prisons, including Oakdale Federal Correctional Institution in Louisiana, according to the revenue department.

McConnell submitted phony W-2 forms to make it appear that he had earned income from companies that never employed him, Special Agent Larry Wright of the state revenue department said in an affidavit dated Nov. 21, 2017.

"McConnell even wrote letters to (the revenue department) indicating he was working out of the country most times and had problems with his records," Wright wrote.

One of McConnell's girlfriends mailed him tax return forms to prison and later mailed the documents for him, Wright said.

"All of this was done on the directions of McConnell," the agent wrote. "The girlfriends stated they did not know McConnell was perpetrating a scheme but thought he may have had income prior to becoming incarcerated."

Wright said he traced some of the refund money to McConnell's parents, "who were duped by their son into believing he was a legitimate investor."

McConnell has been a Louisiana resident but also lived in Marshall, Texas, Wright said. McConnell was an inmate at the Oakdale prison last November and had been scheduled to be released to a Baton Rouge halfway house in December, according to the agent's affidavit.

A spokesman for the revenue department said he didn't know what McConnell was convicted of before he began serving his prison sentence.

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