Michael William Joseph III pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to charges stemming from the theft of government money through the filing of false personal income tax returns.
In 2007, Joseph was incarcerated in Aplachee Correctional Institution in Sneads where he wrote fake tax returns for the years 2006, 2007 and 2008 using other inmates' personal identification information. Joseph would file a Form 4852, a substitute for W-2 forms, with false incomes and deductions, then have the tax refunds sent to his mother's home in Tampa or deposited into an account that he controlled.
Joseph sought $179,349 in illicit refunds and the government actually paid out to him $51,298. Investigators recovered $17,553.52 from Joseph's bank account and found $11,600 buried in the backyard of his mother's ex-husband's house. The government moved to claim that money, but U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak did not immediately address the forfeiture issue.
Joseph, 53, was indicted in federal court of 46 charges, ranging from defrauding the federal government, filing false tax returns to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and theft of government money. He pleaded guilty to at least one count of every charge and 41 counts total, which included conspiracy to commit mail fraud, a felony that carries a 20-year prison term.
Smoak scheduled sentencing for 10 a.m. March 20.
State Attorney Glenn Hess originally prosecuted Joseph in state court, but the case was delayed by a ruling in Jackson County that would have suppressed many of the tax forms as evidence. The ruling was recently overturned, but Joseph had already been indicted and the state case was put on hold. Hess said Thursday that he was pleased with the federal prosecutor's handling of the case and would wait until after Joseph's sentencing before deciding whether to pursue the state charges.