Weather Forecast


Duluth man accused of committing tax fraud while in prison

A Duluth man is facing federal charges alleging that he and other inmates received more than $400,000 in fraudulent tax returns while serving in a state prison.

Tanka James Tetzlaff , 39, and Tony Terrell Robinson, 30, of Bayport, Minn., each face a count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and 10 counts of false claims against the United States following a grand jury indictment unsealed last week.

The indictment charges that the two men, while incarcerated in the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Faribault from approximately October 2009 to September 2010, were the ringleaders of a tax fraud scheme. The two men solicited fellow inmates to provide them with their names and Social Security numbers in order to file the false returns, the indictment alleges.

“The filing co-conspirators had not earned the wages they reported, they did not have income tax withheld from their purported wages and they were not entitled to the refunds being claimed,” the indictment alleges. “The defendants prepared and filed the tax returns, or arranged for them to be prepared and filed, knowing they were false.”

Tax refunds were received by check, deposited directly into bank accounts or deposited onto debit cards, and Tetzlaff and Robinson received a cut of the profits, the indictment alleges. Outside of prison, co-conspirators Carmen Allen, Vanessa Walberg and Deeanna Crist ,cq , were granted power of attorney for the prisoners and were able to cash the checks, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. In total, more than $400,000 was disbursed by the Internal Revenue Service.

Allen pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in March and was sentenced on Aug. 7 to four years of probation and ordered to pay more than $22,000 in restitution. Walberg and Crist pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in May and are awaiting sentencing.

The criminal charges were the result of an investigation by the IRS’ Criminal Investigation Division.