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He files bogus tax returns for dead people, now he’s going to jail for nearly 10 years

Updated: December 9, 2012 7:39PM

A Barbados national and former Chicago man who prosecutors said filed 645 bogus federal tax returns using dead people’s names to seek more than $120 million in refunds was sentenced Wednesday to 91/2 years in prison, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Andrew J. Watts, 35, whose last known address was in Los Angeles, entered a blind plea of guilty in July, records show. He used the scheme to put his hands on more than $19 million, according to prosecutors who accuse him of using more than $1.6 million of it to live “a life of leisure.”

He rented apartments in Manhattan, Beverly Hills and Los Angeles, prosecutors claim in court records, and bought a Mercedes-Benz SUV and a Dodge Challenger sports car. They also said he bought jewelry, used the money to jet between California and New York, gambled and gave cash to his girlfriend.

Another $17 million was recovered by the IRS after it was frozen in various accounts.

The U.S. attorney’s office said Watts used names and Social Security numbers of dead taxpayers to file hundreds of false returns between 2007 and 2011. He had the refunds mailed to addresses he controlled and electronically deposited into bank accounts, including an address and account in Chicago.

U.S. District Judge Joan Gottschall imposed the sentence and ordered Watts to pay $1,676,399 in restitution.

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