A Philadelphia woman was sentenced today to 100 months in prison for conspiring to defraud the IRS and assisting others in filing false income tax returns.

On July 16, 2021, Yolonda Thompson, also known as Qhama Al, and a co-conspirator, Albert Upshur, also known as Kelinde Jaha, were found guilty at a bench trial of conspiring to defraud the IRS and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns. According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, between 2009 and 2015, Thompson and Upshur attempted to obtain millions of dollars for themselves and other participants in a fraudulent debt relief scheme they referred to as the Debt Payoff Process. As part of the scheme, Thompson and Upshur formed the Yolonda Denise Thompson Living Trust (the “Thompson Trust”). Participants in the Debt Payoff Process were told that if they paid money to Upshur and filed tax returns and other documents Thompson prepared for them, they could access funds from the Thompson Trust to pay off their mortgages and other debts. The tax returns that Thompson prepared, and participants filed with the IRS, claimed refunds to which they were not entitled. In total, the scheme sought more than $325 million in fraudulent refunds, of which the IRS paid out $1,511,236.

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The evidence at trial also established that after the IRS began to investigate the Debt Payoff Process, Thompson and Upshur attempted to obtain money from the IRS by other fraudulent means, including using checks drawn on closed bank accounts and trying to use financial instruments such as fictitious bonds. The defendants also continued to file false tax returns for themselves and others after the IRS assessed civil penalties against them and notified them that they were under criminal investigation.

In addition to the term of imprisonment, U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone ordered Thompson to serve three years of supervised release. Upshur was previously sentenced to seven years in prison for his role in the scheme.

Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division made the announcement. He thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which provided support in the investigation and prosecution of this case. 

IRS-Criminal Investigation investigated the case.

Trial Attorney Melissa S. Siskind, who serves as National Director of the Tax Division’s Tax Defier Initiative, prosecuted the case.