‘Intended’ loss caused by Samoan tax fraudster could exceed $1 million

fili@samoanews.com

The intended loss to the federal government over the alleged false filing of tax returns by an American Samoa woman who was arrested last month in Hawai’i, “could exceed $1 million,” according to new court documents filed with the federal court in Anchorage, Alaska.

Coriana Ifopo, 54, was arrested in Honolulu on July 11 and charged under a 28-count indictment handed down on June 20 by a federal grand jury in Anchorage, where she appeared on July 14 and entered a 'not guilty' plea to filing fraudulent tax returns with the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for local residents, who do not qualify for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (or EITC).

The indictment shows 28 individuals, identified in court documents by their initials, with the dates of when the returns were filed with the IRS or when the IRS refunds were issued — going back to May 20, 2014 with the last one dated Feb. 20, 2016.

Total loss to the IRS — shown in the indictment — based on the amounts for the 28 individuals is $167,000, although the US Justice Department had an estimated loss of more than $1.3 million.

This past Wednesday, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Jamie McGrady, who is representing the defendant, filed a motion in court seeking an order to declare the case “complex and unusual under the Speedy Trial Act”.

According to the defense, the government doesn’t oppose the motion, which also requests the court to continue the final pretrial conference and trial — currently set for Sept. 18th — to late November.

McGrady said Ifopo was arraigned July 14 at the federal court in Anchorage on 28 counts of false claims to a federal government agency. “The estimated actual loss in false tax returns paid out by the IRS is $167,000.00 but the intended loss could exceed $1 million dollars,” McGrady said, adding that this case is unusual and it is appropriate to vacate the current trial date because of the large volume of discovery currently produced by the government.

(Intended loss is defined by uslegal.com as the monetary or financial “harm that was intended to result from the offense. The court shall use the gain that resulted from the offense as an alternative measure of loss only if there is a loss but it reasonably cannot be determined.”)

At this time, the discovery amounts to over 8,000 pages and includes 121 financial spreadsheets, according to the defense, who noted that the court has issued a protective order that prohibits the federal public defender from leaving Ifopo with a copy of the discovery unless it has been redacted in regards to personal identifying information.

The motion reveals that Ifopo resides in Waipahu, Hawai’i, adding that additional time will be necessary to arrange for her to meet with counsel in person to review the large volume of discovery.

Ifopo is released on her own recognizance and her travel is prohibited to the island of Oahu, Hawaii and Alaska, according to court documents, which also outlined various conditions of release. It further states that the defendant may “voluntarily participate in stress and anxiety counseling” as arranged by Pretrial Services.

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