A scheme to skip town on a one-way charter flight using fake IDs could land Billy G. Jefferson in prison for an extra 17 years.
The local developer and landlord pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to a pair of identity theft-related charges. Jefferson allegedly forged IDs using his brother’s personal information and attempted to use the documents to flee to England last year before his first plea hearing.
The two charges carry a combined maximum sentence of 17 years in prison and add to his two standing historic tax credit fraud charges that carry a maximum of 20 years. Jefferson will proceed to sentencing on Sept. 9 facing four charges and up to 37 years in federal prison.
Wednesday’s charges – unlawful transfer of a false identification document and aggravated identity theft – were added after a May grand jury indictment. In December he pleaded guilty to one count each of major fraud against the United States and engaging in unlawful monetary transaction.
Prosecutors have argued that Jefferson used IDs forged with his own photo but his brother’s information to book a $75,000 charter jet trip to England.
The IDs, filed as evidence in court filings, include driver’s licenses from several states, a fake Costco card and a San Francisco public library card.
The identity theft allegations were first revealed in April when the U.S. Attorney’s Office asked for court approval to seek a longer sentence than originally agreed upon. Jefferson’s December plea agreement for the tax fraud charges arranged for a sentence of six and a half years.
That plea agreement was amended on Wednesday, throwing out the six-and-a-half-year recommendation on the first two charges. Prosecutors have said they will seek the full 20-year statutory maximum for those counts.
But Jefferson did win a few victories at Wednesday’s hearing.
A pending count of obstruction of an official proceeding will be dismissed, a charge his defense team had previously asked the court to throw out.
Jefferson will also save nearly $3.3 million on restitution for the tax credit scheme. The amount he’ll be required to pay back dropped from $12.9 million to a little more than $9.6 million. The defense argued changes in federal tax credit law had already invalidated millions of dollars’ worth of credits Jefferson sold to a third-party investor.
The developer will also regain his ability to appeal his eventual sentence, a right he gave up after pleading guilty the first time in December.
Jefferson is being represented by Chuck James of Williams Mullen and John Martin of Hunton & Williams. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gill is leading the prosecution.
Jefferson has been held at Pamunkey Regional Jail since February. He was first arrested more than a year ago and has admitted to inflating construction costs on several real estate rehabilitation projects in an attempt to gain millions of dollars in fraudulent tax credits.
The final decision on Jefferson’s sentencing rests with presiding Judge John A. Gibney. The four charges carry up to 37 years, but only if Jefferson receives the maximum on each count and all of those sentences are ordered to be served one at a time.
Gibney has the power to decide whether those sentences will be served concurrently or one after another. The aggravated identity theft charge and the maximum two-year sentence it carries, however, may not be served at the same time as any other sentence.
Prosecutors have already said they will argue for a lengthy prison sentence.
James, Jefferson’s defense, said in court Wednesday that prosecutors could look for a “three-fold increase” over the sentencing range he expects will be outlined by a federal probation officer in a forthcoming presentence report.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Judge Gibney said of the prosecution: “They’re going to try to make Mr. Jefferson look as bad as they can… and they’re going to ask that the sentence go way above the guidelines.”