A former Athens County assistant prosecutor was sentenced to a year and a day in prison last week for participating in a conspiracy to file hundreds of false income-tax returns and assisting his co-conspirators in obtaining roughly $250,000 in false refunds.

Michael (Mickey) A. Prisley, 53, of Columbus, pleaded guilty in the Southern District Court of Ohio in April to one count of conspiracy to submit false claims for income-tax refunds with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and at that time agreed to pay more than $250,000 in restitution to the IRS.

Benjamin C. Glassman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, reported Prisley’s prison sentence in a release Friday.

Prisley, who grew up in Athens, initially was indicted by a federal grand jury in Columbus last November on eight charges relating to fraudulent tax claims and theft of government money.

According to Glassman’s release, Prisley “conspired with others” between the fall of 2009 and September 2015 to defraud the IRS by filing hundreds of false income-tax returns in an attempt to obtain tax refunds; he would deposit those refund checks into his bank accounts and withdraw them in order to pay his “co-conspirators” their share, while receiving drugs in exchange for cashing those checks.

Prisley was a long-time local assistant prosecutor and served in that capacity from Aug. 29, 2011, to Jan. 21, 2014, according to a prior interview with Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn. (Prisley also served in that role through much of the ’90s.)

Blackburn explained that Prisley was terminated “with cause” in January 2014 after being placed on administrative leave in December 2013 when the Prosecutor’s Office became aware that Prisley had a problem with abusing drugs.

“We tried to help him with his addiction, but he was unsuccessful in getting help for that,” Blackburn previously explained, noting that Prisley at the time was a recovering alcoholic.

Ryan L. Korner, special agent in charge of the case with the IRS, said in Friday’s release that Prisley should have known better. “As a former assistant prosecuting attorney, Mr. Prisley knows that stealing from the government is a serious crime,” Korner said. “No one is entitled to an undeserved windfall, and those who try to steal the taxpayers’ money face severe consequences, including incarceration and having to pay back all the stolen refund money.”

Prisley’s coconspirators Tawnya Writesel (also known as Tawnya Rutan), Amy K. France and Denard T. Nelson were also charged in relation to this case, the release reads. According to the release:

• France pleaded guilty in June 2016 to one count of conspiracy to submit false claims and one count of identity theft, and he was sentenced in January 2018 to more than three years in prison. France was also ordered to pay nearly $467,000 in restitution. 

• Nelson pleaded guilty in September 2015 to one count of identity theft and was sentenced in May 2016 to five years of probation. He was also ordered to pay more than $87,000 in restitution.

• Writesel was indicted in November 2017 on one count of conspiracy to submit false claims for income-tax refunds, and four counts of filing false claims for income-tax refunds. She pleaded guilty in May 2018 to one count of conspiracy to submit false claims. Her sentencing date is yet to be scheduled, the release reads.

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