A Laguna Beach man pleaded guilty Friday to stealing a $110,000 tax refund, which he spent on foreclosure debt and loans, according to an Orange County District Attorney press release.
Stephen Reginald McDow, 34, was sentenced to 60 days in jail, 18 months of formal probation and is ordered to pay restitution. He pleaded guilty to charges of one felony count of theft of lost property with an enhancement for taking property worth more than $65,000.
The female victim, who goes by Michelle D. in court records, filed her 2009 federal income tax returns in August 2010 and expected to get a $110,000 refund, the release said. She requested that the refund be given via direct deposit in her back account.
In December 2010, Michelle asked her accountant to check on the return, which had not yet received. She learned that the $110,000 had been deposited in the wrong account, a Citibank account number that she had closed in 2004, which she had put on the forms accidentally. McDow was later assigned that account number.
McDow called Michelle's attorney on Feb. 28, 2011, after contacting Citibank and the victim. He gave an email address and received a letter from the victim's attorney that explained that the tax refund had mistakenly been deposited in his account and it belonged to Michelle D., according to the release. He was given instructions on how to return the payment to the victim.
McDow contacted Michelle's attorney on March 6, 2011, and told him that he had spent most of the $110,000 on a student loan, car loan and foreclosure debt. He spent more than $65,000 of the victim's money while knowing it was not his, the release said.
On March 16, 2011, the victim mailed McDow a certified letter that explained how to return her money. He did not respond and ignored efforts by the victim to obtain the money on multiple occasions, the release said. After being unable to contact McDow, she reported the theft to Santa Ana police.
The defendant has paid the restitution money in full, the release said.