With tax season, comes the temptation for criminals to falsely submit tax refunds for financial gain. Today’s Fraud of the Day from the Sun Sentinel highlights the case of one Miami native whose sticky hands left marks on 486 false refund submissions. Now, he’s stuck behind bars. The kicker – wait until you hear who he used as his victims!
While many of us support and depend on our local and national law enforcement officers and fire fighters, one Miami thief saw them an easy target for tax refund fraud. (Okay, stealing is wrong. Stealing from the police and the people who run into burning buildings to protect us…that’s just bad karma.) The fraudster in this case recently pleaded guilty to one count of device fraud for trying to obtain $507,041 from the government; he succeeded in ripping off these taxpayers a total of $112,429. He was sentenced to 57 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. He’ll also have to pay full restitution for the $112,429 to the U.S. Treasury.
So, how did the defendant get his hands on the list of law enforcement and fire fighters? It looks like he probably bought them on the street. The article reports that authorities have not yet identified the source of the breach of the personal information. What we do know is that the U.S. Secret Service and Internal Revenue Service investigation found that the 486 fraudulent tax returns were filed between January 16, 2011 and April 4, 2011. (Only 486 phony tax refunds? Too bad. I hear that fraudsters get a free set of steak knives if they break 500.)
Upon executing a search warrant at an address, investigators found the list of names, Social Security numbers and other personal identification information he used to perpetrate the fraud in a plastic bag underneath a refrigerator. (What an interesting place to hide the key to half of a million dollars. Wonder what they found in the freezer?) Officials also found records of his use of a popular commercial tax refund program used to submit the returns.
Prior to sentencing both the defendant’s friend and the mother of his child sent letters to the judge requesting leniency in his sentencing. Even so, fraud is still fraud. The defendant could have had all of Miami pleading his case to the judge, but stealing $112,429 from taxpayers (in my opinion) deserves no leniency. Sticky hands will spend the next 57 months behind bars.