A Southern California loan processor and real estate agent who attempted to steal nearly $1 million from the U.S. Treasury faced 12 to 18 months in prison based on sentencing guidelines, but a federal judge gave her a huge break this month.
In 2008 and 2009, Dena Maria Howard (a.k.a. Dena Walton) participated in what is commonly known as the "Old Quest" scheme to file false Internal Revenue Service tax returns for herself and others who paid her a fee in efforts to dupe the government.
She was arrested in 2011 after a grand jury indictment.
IRS agents caught Howard's fraud before issuing a check, but prosecutors inside the U.S. Department of Justice urged federal Judge Josephine L. Staton to give the defendant a prison term or, at least, home detention because of her active role in the con game as well as a deterrent to future, similar scams.
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But Staton was generous. She handed Howard, who was born in 1957, a punishment of probation for two years. She also waived all fines.