The last of four people charged with running a tax-fraud scheme from a Knox County pawn shop has pleaded guilty.
Brian Hamilton pleaded guilty Tuesday to wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and conspiring to defraud the federal government.
Hamilton’s brother, Billy Ray Hamilton, and Patsy Carnes and Diana Hill had pleaded guilty earlier.
The four worked together at the Bailey Switch Pawn Shop, where they took part in a conspiracy from January 2011 through July 2012 to file false federal income tax returns and keep the proceeds, according to court documents.
The Hamilton brothers filed the false returns using identifying information from pawn shop customers and other people.
Hill obtained personal information from people to use on the returns, and Carnes kept files on the information and supplied it to the Hamiltons, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey.
Some people didn’t know that members of the conspiracy were seeking tax refunds in their names, although court records indicate that some did. Some witnesses said they took part because of drug addiction, according to court records.
The scam was lucrative for a while. Billy Ray Hamilton’s plea agreement said he is responsible for $272,808 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service, representing the proceeds of the fraud.
The most serious charge against Brian and Billy Ray Hamilton has a top sentence of 20 years. Carnes and Hill face a maximum sentence of 10 years. The identity theft charge carries a mandatory two-year sentence in addition to any other prison time.