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Tax Scam Leader Gets More Than 17 Years

Harriette Walters pleaded guilty last year to wire fraud, money laundering and other charges.
Harriette Walters pleaded guilty last year to wire fraud, money laundering and other charges. (D.C. Government Photo)
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Tabackman noted that Walters continued to talk to authorities and was hoping to help the District in its lawsuit against Bank of America, where a bank manager deposited almost $18 million in fraudulent refund checks.

City officials and federal investigators said they were pleased by the sentence. "It is well-deserved," said D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles. But Nickles added that he did not think Walters would be much help as a witness against Bank of America. "I'm not sure how much credibility she has," he said.

Joseph Persichini Jr., head of the FBI's Washington field office, said "the judge sent a good message."

"Many people think white-collar crime is a victimless crime, and it is not," he said. "It may take years to recover from this."

Walters has admitted that she exploited lax oversight in the tax office to issue more than 230 fraudulent property tax refund checks to friends and co-conspirators starting in 1989. Between 2000 and 2007, her most prolific period, she issued 152 fraudulent refund checks worth $42 million.

Walters gambled heavily and made 45 trips to Las Vegas and Atlantic City. She had expensive tastes. She charged more than $2.3 million during shopping sprees at such high-end stores as Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, where she had a personal shopper.

When agents raided her Northwest Washington home, they discovered a trove of luxury watches, designer purses and expensive furniture.

Known as "Mother Harriette," Walters often gave cash and checks to friends and co-workers. She distributed $1.2 million in checks and an undetermined amount of cash to her colleagues from 2001 to 2007, according to authorities.

The scheme unraveled in 2007 when the bank manager lost his job. An employee at SunTrust Bank grew suspicious when Jayrece Turnbull, Walters's niece, tried to deposit a $410,000 refund check. The bank employee alerted the FBI.

Turnbull, who played a hand in stealing about $24 million, was sentenced to nine years in prison. Other sentences have ranged from one year and one day for Marilyn Yoon, a former personal shopper for Walters, to six years and six months for Walter Jones, the bank manager.

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