Ex-Catholic Social Services worker, tax preparers charged

Posted: June 13, 2014

THEY WERE foster kids. And disabled kids.

Children who needed help.

Instead, a group of tax preparers with a Southwest Philadelphia company and a former social worker with Catholic Social Services allegedly used the kids' identities to profit in a scheme by falsely claiming them as dependents on clients' income-tax returns, according to documents unsealed yesterday by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The alleged scheme lasted from about January 2008 to April 2013 and involved tax preparers with Medmans Financial Services, on 65th Street near Chester Avenue and on Woodland Avenue near 66th Street.

Eight people have been charged, six of whom were indicted last month, according to an indictment unsealed yesterday.

The owner of Medmans, Mohamed Mansaray, was charged in May 2013 by criminal information, a process that typically indicates that a plea deal is in the works. His criminal information was unsealed yesterday.

The eighth person, Shirl Robinson, 48, of Darby, was indicted in 2012, pleaded guilty and was sentenced last year. The details of her sentencing are sealed.

Of the six charged in the indictment unsealed yesterday, five worked for Medmans as tax preparers. They included Dauda Koroma, 42, of Philadelphia, Ibrahim Kamara, 47, of Yeadon, and Musa Turay, 41, of Darby, who worked at the 65th Street office.

Also indicted were Ahmed Kamara, 38, of Clifton Heights, who managed the Woodland Avenue office, and Foday Mansaray, 38, of Darby, who worked in that office.

The sixth defendant, Gebah Kamara, 46, of Sharon Hill, was a social worker at Catholic Social Services until about November 2011.

The six were charged with conspiracy, fraud, identity theft and aiding in the preparation of filing false income-tax returns.

Four of the six were arrested yesterday and were in court for an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Rice.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Klotz told Rice that some of the defendants may be distant relatives.

The documents in the case allege the following:

While working at Catholic Social Services, Gebah Kamara managed the cases of numerous children who were referred to the agency by the city's Department of Human Services for placement with foster families.

Kamara had access to the foster kids' names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers, and sold the information to Ahmed Kamara and Mohamed Mansaray.

Meanwhile, in addition to working as tax preparers, Turay, Ibrahim Kamara and Foday Mansaray worked as "direct support professionals" for the Main Line-based Devereux Foundation, "providing care at a residential facility for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities."

The defendants are accused of using the identities of the foster and disabled kids on tax returns, falsely claiming them as dependents for clients. By doing so, they allegedly generated large fraudulent returns, some in excess of $9,000, through false claims of credits and exemptions.

The tax preparers allegedly charged clients an extra fee of up to $800 to include this false information on their returns.

Yesterday Gebah Kamara pleaded not guilty during an arraignment before Rice. His attorney, James M. Polyak of Reading, said afterward that Kamara is "prepared to accept responsibility for his role in the incident."

Polyak, however, would not elaborate on his client's role or confirm whether Kamara gave names and Social Security numbers of foster children to the tax preparers.

He said he has been representing Kamara for more than a year and a half. "This investigation is 2 years old," he said. "This is not something that happened last week or last month."

Gebah Kamara is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Liberia and lives with his wife and children in Sharon Hill, Polyak said.

Also in court yesterday were Ahmed Kamara, Koroma and Foday Mansaray. They will be arraigned next Thursday.

Eli Gabay, a Center City lawyer who was in the courtroom, said afterward that he knew some of the defendants. "Most of the defendants are from Sierra Leone," he said. "They came to this country after rebuilding their lives after the war."

Gabay, who was not assigned to represent any of the defendants, said he represents the small "community" of people from Sierra Leone in the Philly area.

Ibrahim Kamara and Turay have not been arrested.

According to Robinson's indictment, she "obtained the names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers . . . of children whose parents or guardians would not be claiming them as dependents" on tax returns and provided them for a fee to Mohamed Mansaray for use as false dependents on tax returns.

She was paid about $650 for each child's personal identity. It was not immediately clear yesterday how she had obtained the identifying information.

On Twitter: @julieshawphilly

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