Some people just can’t catch a break. You almost have to feel bad for most people. Almost. According to NewsHerald.com, an inmate being held by Florida’s correctional system is scheduled for release on July 20. Not one second of fresh air later, though, he will be taken back into custody to await trial on charges of stealing over $50,000 from the federal government. (Rough day, bud.)
This defendant has been indicted on 36 counts having to do with his alleged role of filing false tax returns for his fellow inmates. According to the indictment, the man collected over $50,000 using information from 28 other inmates, despite the fact that they had been incarcerated for the entire tax year, and had no income. (Trading in cigarettes and magazines doesn’t count.)
The man allegedly filed 85 false returns, claiming that they were entitled to almost $180,000. In case the heavy emphasis of “inmate,” “no income” and “incarcerated” weren’t clear: this man was in jail! Seeing as the man was making absolute bank, his fellow inmates nicknamed him the name of a popular tax preparation firm. I’ll spare the firm and not reference the nickname.
The man has been in and out of prison for the past 30 years and his latest stint in prison is his 11th time in the pokey. (At least he’s familiar with the drill. His lawyer may have an uphill battle arguing for his release on bail.)
Despite his previous brushes with the law, the defendant is innocent until proven guilty. But, the case raises the question: how easy is it for someone to file fake tax returns from prison? If you’ve been reading my commentaries, you know that this is something we’ve seen before. So, what’s the answer? Revenue agencies need to augment their existing rules based systems with identity-based filters to detect potentially fraudulent tax return claims. It isn’t a perfect approach, but it will catch a lot of fraud.