|For Immediate Release
Case # 11CF1543
September 14, 2012
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Chief of Staff
MAN SENTENCED FOR STEALING $110,000 TAX REFUND FROM A FEMALE VICTIM AND SPENDING MONEY ON FORECLOSURE DEBT AND STUDENT AND CAR LOANS
*Victim’s tax refund was deposited in error into defendant’s bank account due to filing mistake
SANTA ANA – A man was sentenced today to 60 days in jail, 18 months of formal probation, and ordered to pay restitution for stealing a $110,000 tax refund, which belonged to another woman and was mistakenly deposited into his account, and spending the stolen money on foreclosure debt and car and student loans. Stephen Reginald McDow, 34, Laguna Beach, pleaded guilty to one felony count of theft of lost property with a sentencing enhancement for taking property over $65,000. The defendant has since paid back the restitution money in full.
In August 2010, Michelle D. electronically filed her 2009 federal income tax returns with the expectation of a $110,000 tax refund from the federal government. The victim filed her taxes with the request that her refund be directly deposited into a numbered bank account.
In December 2010, after months of waiting for her federal tax return, Michelle D. asked her accountant to check on the status of the return. It was learned that $110,000 had been deposited into the bank account requested on the victim’s tax return on Sept. 10, 2010. The victim then discovered that she had inadvertently provided a Citibank bank account number that had been closed in 2004. That account number was later reassigned to bank customer McDow.
At the request of Citibank and the victim, McDow called Michelle D.’s attorney on Feb. 28, 2011. McDow provided an e-mail address and subsequently received a letter from the victim’s attorney indicating that the $110,000 erroneously deposited into the defendant’s account was a tax refund belonging to Michelle D. The defendant received instructions on transferring the money to the rightful owner.
On March 6, 2011, McDow e-mailed the victim’s attorney and stated that he had already spent most of the $110,000 on a car loan, student loan, and foreclosure debt. The defendant immediately spent the money, knowing the money did not belong to him and had been mistakenly deposited into his account. McDow spent over $65,000 of the victim’s money.
On March 16, 2011, Michelle D. mailed a certified letter to McDow with instructions for returning her money. The defendant failed to respond to the letter and ignoring several attempts by the victim to get her money back. After unsuccessfully attempting to contact the defendant, Michelle D. reported the theft to SAPD, who investigated this case.
Deputy District Attorney Matt Lockhart prosecuted this case.