Sullivan County couple accused of stealing identities to file false tax returns

Matthew Lane • Feb 2, 2014 at 9:16 PM

GREENEVILLE — A Sullivan County couple face a host of federal charges after allegedly stealing the identities of fellow jail inmates, filing false income tax returns and keeping the money for their own personal use.

Devin Ray Horne and his then-girlfriend Melissa Ann Nowlin were indicted in U.S. District Court in Greeneville last week. The 28-count indictment charges the two with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, false claims, theft of public money, aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to commit mail fraud and mail fraud.

According to the indictment, Horne and Nowlin crafted and executed a scheme where they would obtain the personal information of people in the community and inmates incarcerated at the Sullivan County Jail to fill out false income tax returns.

Prosecutors say the couple carried out the scheme from January 2009 through October 2012 with Horne obtaining the personal information from fellow inmates and others in the community while he personally was incarcerated in the jail.

Horne told Nowlin the scheme was a way to obtain money “right quick” and that he did it “all the time,” noting Horne was going to “mess with” some inmates by filing tax returns using their identities, the indictment states.

After Horne obtained the personal information, the indictment alleges, he told Nowlin and other conspirators what figures and amounts to put on the 1040EZ forms, how much the refunds should be and what addresses to use on the tax returns.

The addresses used on the forms belonged to family members of Horne’s and prosecutors say all of the submitted returns contained almost identical wages, federal tax withholding and occupations. In fact, most of the claims were either for $880 or $1,280.

Nowlin and others obtained the checks, cashed them and together with Horne converted the funds to personal use, the indictment states.

Over the course of the conspiracy, the couple is accused of stealing the identity of more than a dozen people and defrauding the U.S. Government of more than $10,000.

The couple are scheduled to be arraigned next week.

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