BANGOR, Maine — A Gardiner woman admitted in U.S. District Court last week that she fraudulently qualified for tax refunds totaling nearly $240,000 using the identities of individuals she had helped obtain refunds through the state’s Circuit Breaker program.
Joann C. Rittall, 43, waived indictment and pleaded guilty Thursday to one count each of making false claims against the government and identity theft.
Rittall remains free on personal recognizance bail.
A sentencing date has not been set.
Her plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office calls for Rittall to pay $219,065.85 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and $19,896 to the Maine Revenue Service.
By pleading guilty, Rittall admitted that in 2005, she obtained Social Security numbers for Maine residents she assisted in filing claims for refunds under Maine’s Residents Property Tax and Rent Refund Program, known as the Circuit Breaker program. Court documents do not say under what circumstances Rittall was helping taxpayers file for the refunds.
The purpose of the program, which provided nearly 90,000 refunds in 2011, is to help keep people in their homes and alleviate the disproportionate burden that high property taxes have on those with low incomes, according to a previously published report. It was repealed Aug. 1 and replaced by a “property tax fairness credit.”
Rittall filed electronic tax returns for 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 using the names and Social Security numbers of at least 25 people using falsified W-2 forms. She then set up bank accounts in their names so the refunds could be wired into the accounts, according to the prosecution version of events to which she pleaded guilty.
Court documents do not say how she spent the money.
Rittall faces up to 15 years in federal prison on the identity theft charge and five years on the making false claims charge. She also could be ordered to pay a fine of up to $250,000 on each count.