Man who cashed others' tax refunds gets year sentence

January 20, 2001|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

A barber who admitted cashing more than $500,000 in tax refund checks mistakenly mailed to the St. Paul Street rowhouse where he once lived was sentenced yesterday to six months in prison.

Amos Cedric Benning Jr. also must serve six months of home detention and then more than four years of supervised release for his role in one of two criminal cases to grow out of what investigators described as a major Internal Revenue Service blunder.

For most of the 1990s, the agency mailed hundreds of refund checks to 2429 St. Paul St. because of a records error in the agency computers.

Benning, 25, who now lives in Columbia, rented a second-floor apartment at the address during the late 1990s.

Investigators began looking at Benning after he deposited a $260,000 refund check made out to North Carolina-based Jefferson Pilot Communications.

In court yesterday, Benning apologized to U.S. District Judge Herbert N. Maletz. "I'd just like to get this behind me so I can go on and live my life," Benning said.

Prosecutors asked Maletz not to divide Benning's 12-month prison sentence between prison and home detention, saying he played a central role in the crime.

"It was his - opportunistic to be sure - but it was his perception that this could be turned to a criminal enterprise that set this whole train in motion," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara S. Sale.

Benning was one of five men who faced federal charges for illegally cashing the checks that arrived at the rowhouse.

One of the defendants, charged in a separate case, was a former IRS revenue officer who had operated a tax preparation business out of the rowhouse.

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