PORTLAND — An Arizona man had more than four years in prison tacked on to his life sentence after filing 117 fake tax returns from prison, a scheme that netted him $119,000 including federal stimulus funds.

Troy Fears, 54, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Portland after pleading guilty to making false claims to the Treasury Department and misusing Social Security numbers. Federal prosecutors say that between 2005 and 2009, Fears submitted tax returns allegedly from other prisoners with fake W-2s suggesting they had worked and had income tax withheld.

He filed claims for $515,000 including federal stimulus money that was budgeted to boost the economy during the economic downturn.  

The forms had the refund checks electronically deposited in accounts controlled by Fears. The plan unraveled after corrections officers at the Maine State Prison, where Fears was transferred as part of a prisoner swap, intercepted some of this mail and alerted federal authorities.

Fears has been in prison since 1976, when he was 19. Fears was convicted of two separate cases of rape with a deadly weapon, a knife. His 60 years to life sentence was then elevated to life without parole after he was convicted of assault while a prisoner.

The 57-month sentence he received today would be served after his other sentence. Though he currently is serving life, if something were to lead to his release on the rape and assault charges he would still have to serve the federal time on the tax charges, prosecutors said.

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