TAMPA - A former Tampa Housing Authority employee faces more than two years in federal prison after she helped a friend commit tax refund fraud by giving her access to the authority's wireless Internet service.
Leah Lang, who worked at the authority from 2005 through 2009, "deeply regrets letting down her community as well as the housing authority who had given her a second chance by employing her," said her public defender, Adam Allen.
Lang pleaded guilty in April to making false claims. According to her plea agreement, she worked with Patricia Shaw, who filed 22 fraudulent tax returns between January and May 2009. A total of 20 returns were filed through the Internet connection of the housing authority, where Lang was a liaison for social services.
Shaw recently was released from federal prison, where she spent two years after a guilty plea in which she admitted filing $126,000 in fraudulent tax returns. Shaw used stolen identity information and her personal information to file fraudulent returns. She and co-conspirators paid some people to use their personal information.
Lang let Shaw to use the authority's Internet connection and opened a bank account in the name, "The Double Dutch Connection," which she represented as a nonprofit youth group. But Shaw used the account to deposit fraudulently obtained tax refunds. Lang withdrew $36,900 from the account before the bank froze the funds, according to her plea agreement.
Wednesday, U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore sentenced Lang to 27 months in prison and ordered her to pay restitution of $102,000 with Shaw. Lang will also serve three years of probation.