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Defrauding the Tax Man, many others nets prison

Cheating the Tax Man doesn’t normally land someone in prison for 11 years.

Unless of course you’re Clifton Jackson and you tried to cheat the IRS more than 80 times in four months.

Jackson, who already is imprisoned in Ohio on a drug conviction, extended his stay behind bars Monday, but not solely because of how he defrauded the government.

“Mr. Jackson’s case is unique because he did it so many times,” said U.S. District Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford.

In early 2012, Jackson filed more than 80 fake tax returns on behalf of people he had talked into giving him personal information.

Prosecutors say Jackson promised people that if they gave him their name, date of birth and Social Security number, they could receive money from the government. During his trial, 20 people testified that they were victimized by Jackson.

“They thought they were involved in a legitimate government program,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross said of the victims. “They did not knowingly, willingly or wantonly take party in this conspiracy.”

Jackson’s sentence also reflects the potential $550,000 loss to the Internal Revenue Service and the fact that Jackson was viewed as the leader of a conspiracy that included several others.

Crawford stopped short of giving Jackson even more time in prison – his recommended sentence was up to 14 years and could have been longer – and allowed him to serve some of his federal sentence at the same time he’s serving his state prison sentence in Ohio.

“This is not the crime of the century,” defense attorney David B. Cotter told Crawford at one point Monday. “This goes on all over the country again and again and again.”

Jackson, 46, of Buffalo, was found guilty of multiple charges after a two-week trial before Crawford, a visiting judge from Vermont. Jackson was convicted of conspiracy to unlawfully use Social Security numbers, filing false tax returns, aggravated identity theft, misuse of Social Security numbers and theft of government property.

Ross, who prosecuted the case with Assistant U.S. Attorney John E. Rogowski, challenged Cotter’s characterization of the case and suggested that the large number of victims and potential monetary loss to the IRS made it an important prosecution.

“It is a large amount of money – over half a million dollars,” Ross said.

Jackson, who has an extensive criminal record dating back decades, spoke at length during his sentencing but never acknowledged his crime or expressed remorse, choosing instead to accuse the government of fabricating the allegations and evidence against him.

Investigators for the IRS and U.S. Postal Service say the Jackson case became a top priority because of the allegations of identity theft and the government’s emphasis on prosecuting those type of cases.