Woman gets term in prison

JOHNSTOWN – A town of Mayfield woman who filed fraudulent income-tax returns in other people’s names was sentenced Tuesday in Fulton County Court to three to six years in state prison.

Crystal Sweet, 38, of 140 Paradise Point Road, was sentenced by Judge Richard C. Giardino.

Sentencing was based on her Sept. 17 guilty plea before Judge Polly A. Hoye to two felony counts of third-degree grand larceny as part of a plea arrangement.

Sweet previously admitted to stealing $23,918 from the Department of Taxation and Finance by filing fraudulent tax returns in the names of nine Fulton County residents. The residents denied any knowledge of the fraudulent filings, Fulton County District Attorney Louise Sira said.

Previous charges against Sweet included grand larceny, identity theft and offering a false instrument for filing. Sweet reported false employment and earned income on the tax returns, authorities said.

Giardino ordered Sweet to reimburse the Department of Taxation and Finance $23,910, plus a collection charge of $1,195, for a total of $25,114.

Sweet, represented by Mayfield attorney Amanda Rose, waived her right to appeal.

In a news release issued Tuesday, Sira said, “The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance Enforcement Division really did their homework on this case. The evidence left no line of defense and was overwhelming of the defendant’s guilt.”

Sira added, “Ms. Sweet took advantage of those less sophisticated than she by using and comingling their personal, identifying information to defraud the state and taxpayers and hijack their tax returns. The tax department and state police put together a solid case. The severe sentence reflects the major inconvenience to those whose identifying information was used.”

The district attorney said in September that Sweet used her “social connections” to get personal information about people.

“I’ve never had a tax case this big where it involved such a large number of people who were victimized,” Sira said.

Sweet was indicted by a county grand jury on two counts. One count stated that between April 25, 2012, and February 15, 2013, while living at 462 Nine Mile Tree Road, she stole $16,592 from the Department of Taxation and Finance. The other count said that between Feb. 1, 2010, and April 1, 2012, while living at 10 North St., Gloversville, she stole $7,326 from the state.

State Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Thomas H. Mattox on Tuesday also announced the sentencing in a news release.

“This sentencing presents another opportunity to remind all taxpayers to be vigilant when it comes to guarding private information, including Social Security numbers, which clearly can be used for illegal purposes if they fall into the wrong hands,” Mattox said. “I commend District Attorney Sira and her team for prosecuting this case.”

Mattox also issued a reminder that if people suspect an individual or business is engaging in tax evasion or fraud, they should report it to the department online or by calling 457-0578.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.