Buchanan tax preparer jailed for ID theftPublished 8:39am Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Business owner used client information to open lines of credit
The owner of a Buchanan tax preparation service who stole the identities of numerous customers for her own personal financial gain was sentenced to jail and time on probation Monday in Berrien County Trial Court.
Tammy Carol Watson, 53, will spend 30 days in jail and three years on probation on one count of identity theft. Judge Dennis Wiley also ordered her to perform 80 hours of community service.
“I take this type of crime very seriously, Wiley said.
According to court documents, Watson was a franchise owner of H & R Block office at 221 E. Front Street. In March, two of Watson’s victims reported that Watson had committed fraud against them.
A fraud investigation found that Watson had used the victims’ information — gained during tax preparation service — to open lines of credit for her own use without the victims’ knowledge.
Watson admitted she did this to the victims, and several others as well. She said she intended to pay the victims back as she did with others in that past — also without their knowledge.
“I am really sorry that it happened,” Watson said.
Wiley also forbid Watson to work in a position that would give her access to personal information.
“It is a relationship of trust and you violated that trust,” he said. “Whether you paid it back or not doesn’t make a difference.”
Watson must also pay back the victims any restitution that is ordered by the court.
Also Monday, Jonmesha Williams, 23, of Benton Harbor, was sentenced to a year in prison for removing her electronic monitoring advice and absconding from parole in May.