Jamaican allegedly connected to local politicians pleads guilty to tax fraud in US
A Jamaican woman living in the United States, with alleged deep connections to local politicians, pleaded guilty today to pocketing millions of dollars in false income-tax refunds from the US government.
An online report in the Miami Herald newspaper says 60-year-old Pamella Watson, who has been detained since her arrest in May, was convicted of a single wire-fraud offense in a plea agreement filed in Fort Lauderdale federal court.
The report says she faces up to 20 years in prison when she returns to court on December four for sentencing by US District Judge James Cohn.
Meanwhile, a slew of other charges, from filing fictitious tax returns to laundering ill-gotten refunds, will be dropped as part of the deal with the US attorney’s office.
The Miami Herald reports that court records say the Jamaican woman exploited hundreds of unwitting clients, many of whom are members of Jamaica's Diaspora in South Florida.
It's reported she changed her clients' actual tax returns and filed inflated refund claims without their knowledge.
Watson deceived the US tax authorities by keeping US$3.4 million in “excessive” tax refunds for herself and giving the clients their actual refunds between 2011 and 2014.
It's reported that she avoided detection by splitting the refund deposits into bank accounts that she controlled through her tax preparation business.
Watson, who is a naturalised US citizen, worked as a certified public accountant at her tax preparation office in Miami and lived in Davie.
The Miami Herald said she has hosted fundraisers for leaders of both political parties.
Watson was involved in numerous South Florida organisations and served on several boards, including the Jamaican Women of South Florida.
As part of her plea agreement, Watson has agreed to repay the US' Internal Revenue Service.
Following her arrest in May, the board of directors of the Jamaican Women of Florida, Inc. voted to suspend Watson who was elected earlier as treasurer of the group.