For Immediate Release
Tuskegee Woman Sentenced to Seven Years in Prison for Defrauding Online Shoppers and Firearms Charges
Montgomery, Alabama- On February 25, 2019, Tanya Lee English, (a/k/a Tanya Roberts and Tanya Wilson), 44, of Tuskegee, Alabama, was sentenced to 84 months in federal prison for wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and federal firearms charges, announced U.S. Attorney Louis V. Franklin, Sr., and Postal Inspector in Charge of the Houston Division Adrian Gonzalez. There is no parole in the federal system. In addition to the seven-year prison sentence, English is subject to three years of supervision once released and was ordered to pay $119,550.15 in restitution.
Evidence showed that English ran a wire fraud scheme out of her home from April 2013 to July 2017. As part of that scheme, English posted ads on Craigslist and eBay listing high-end baby strollers such as “Uppababy Vista” and “Bugaboo Donkey” for sale. These strollers retailed for $900 to $1,500 each. English listed pictures of these strollers with a sale price range from $599 to $900, or sometimes she would have the buyers bid on the strollers. After English and a buyer agreed on a price and shipping details, English asked them to send the money through PayPal. After the buyer wired the money to English, they would never hear from her again and never received a stroller.
English would deposit the money she received onto General Purpose Reloadable (GPR) cards issued by various banks. Once the money was deposited on these GPR cards, English would either make ATM cash withdrawals or use the cards to make purchases.
Approximately 200 buyers submitted a payment to English for a stroller. Additionally, 600 more buyers attempted to send a payment to English, but PayPal fraud investigators were able to stop the transactions and reverse payment back to the buyers. PayPal’s actual loss from this scheme was $119,550.51. However, had all the additional transactions gone through, the loss would have been over $277,000.00.
Another part of this scheme was that English used the personal identifying information of real people to create forty-one different PayPal accounts. The accounts were discovered after they were sent to collections due to a negative balance. At that point, the innocent individuals reported they did not have a PayPal account and that their identities had been stolen. Agents confirmed this by linking the Pay Pal accounts to English through her internet IP address, her name, and a shipping address in Tallassee, Alabama.
While executing the arrest warrant for the wire fraud and identity theft charges, agents found a number of firearms and ammunition in the home of English and her husband, Timothy Andre English. Both English and her husband had previous felony convictions and were each charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Timothy English was sentenced to 18 months in prison back in July of 2018.
Additionally, evidence at English’s sentencing indicated that while she was on release in the fraud and firearms case, the United State Postal Inspector Service and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office became aware of citizen complaints in Lee County that English was again engaging in fraudulent activities. The new allegations indicate that English was employing a scheme to solicit donations for domestic violence victims, such as baby items, items for women, and gift cards for her own benefit. Testimony indicated that she profited from the collection and re-sale of the donated items, and was allegedly using the gift cards and some of the items for her own personal use.
“Ms. English, like many thieves, prey on their victims using the internet,” stated U.S. Attorney Franklin. “She swindled legitimate buyers out of their hard earned money, and tried to cover her tracks using the stolen identities of innocent people. My office is committed to working with law enforcement to identify these crooks and make them pay for their crimes. Consumers should always be cautious when making online purchases and report any unusual activity immediately. Banks and online payment systems have fraud departments that can limit losses if they are notified in time to take action.”
“When Ms. English received bank cards delivered by the Postal Service and then used those items to commit fraud, that small detail drew the attention of Postal Inspectors,” said Inspector in Charge Adrian Gonzalez, Houston Division. “The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is proud to have worked with our law enforcement partners while protecting the sanctity of the U.S. Mail for public commerce.”
The wire fraud and aggravated identity theft case was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service. The felon in possession of a firearms case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the United States Postal Inspection Service, and Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. Both cases were prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney, Denise O. Simpson.