A self-described Moorish “Grand Sheik,” who led a sovereign-citizen-style fraud scheme seeking more than $100 million in tax refunds, has been sentenced to 68 months in federal prison.
Marcel A. Walton, 47, of Chicago, received the sentence last Friday in U.S. District Court where he earlier pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud in the scheme that actually “stole” $2 million in bogus refunds from the U.S. Treasury.
The case is one of the largest successful tax-fraud prosecutions brought against a leader in the Moorish movement — an offshoot of the sovereign citizen movement that primarily attracts African-Americas.
“The defendant identified [a] vulnerability in the IRS’s trust tax return processing system and orchestrated a massive tax scheme to exploit that vulnerability by filing numerous false returns,” court documents say.
Seven of his followers previously were sentenced to relatively short prison terms.
“It is also noteworthy that, while the government is the direct victim of the crime, all citizens and residents of the United States ultimately suffer the consequences of this type of criminal conduct,” federal prosecutors said in court filings.
Walton headed the Moorish Science Temple of America, based in Chicago, and worked for the city’s parks department since 2004. He told his followers that if they became members of his temple, they could claim money purportedly owed to the Moors by the U.S. government.
Walton claimed his Moorish ancestors discovered America and that Moorish prophet “Noble Drew Ali” was given the deed to all lands making up North America, court documents say.
Further, he contended that modern-day Moors, such as himself, were entitled to back pay, tax refunds or reparations from the federal government for its “use of Moorish lands.” The next step, Walton said, entitled his followers to file retro-active tax returns seeking refunds of as much $900,000 each.
At least 17 of Walton’s followers filed an estimated 50 returns seeking more than $16.4 million dollars in refunds and obtained $3.3 million in refunds before federal investigators detected the fraud scheme and recovered $852,221, the court documents say.
The government limited its loss calculations to instances where Walton’s role was corroborated by interviews with his temple members.
“However, it is likely that this calculation under represents the harm intended to be caused by defendant as defendant can otherwise be linked through various public filings to individuals who filed fraudulent tax returns seeking refunds exceeding $100 million,” the court documents say.
For his assistance, Walton urged his followers to “tithe” 10 percent of the tax returns they received to him. Walton also personally participated in the fraud scheme.
In 2010, the documents say he filed fraudulent IRS returns, using the name “Marcel Antonio Walton Trust,” seeking approximately $300,000 for each of the years 2007 through 2009.
In early 2011, the U.S. Department of Treasury issued a $310,162 refund check to the “Marcel Antonio Walton Trust,” and mailed it to the defendant’s home address in Chicago.
“Over the course of the next several months, defendant converted all of the money to his own personal use,” the court documents say.
Walton “preyed upon” his “unsophisticated” followers and their vulnerabilities in the same manner that he preyed upon the United States and the vulnerabilities of the IRS’s tax filing system, the documents say.