SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Three Northern California defendants have pleaded guilty to a federal tax fraud conspiracy that sought nearly $1 million in fraudulent tax refunds.

U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott said Sequoiya D. Harris, 35, a former resident of Sacramento and Stockton; John A. Owens Jr., 32, of Sacramento; and Dionne Thomas, 53, of Galt are defendants in the conspiracy case.

Court documents show that from at least February 2009 through April 2013, Harris, Owens, Thomas, and co-defendant Joe E. Rodriguez Jr., conspired to submit false tax returns in their names and the names of others to obtain tax refunds from the IRS.

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According to court documents, the defendants used hundreds of fraudulent W-2 forms from alleged employers to make it appear as if the people listed on the returns worked at those companies and had portions of their wages withheld by the employers for federal tax purposes, but the W-2s, wages, and withholdings were false.

The defendants reportedly directed the tax refunds into a variety of bank accounts controlled by Thomas, Owens, and Rodriguez, who would share those funds with Harris.

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Altogether, the fraudulent tax returns connected to the conspiracy sought approximately $997,804 in tax refunds, of which over $570,000 was paid out by the IRS.

Rodriguez is due in court on June 24. The other three defendants are scheduled for sentencing in September. They face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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