One former Florida college student was busy doing more than attending classes, studying late at the library and going to fraternity parties on the weekends. A Tallahassee television station, WTXL, reported that today’s “Fraud of the Day” perpetrator was sentenced to four years in prison for admitting to having masterminded a tax fraud scheme that used the identities of more than 200 people, including other Florida college students, to file false tax returns.
It turns out that the student did not act alone in his fraud scheme. (The plot thickens.) The article reports that he paid two bank tellers at a North Miami bank between $800 and $1000 to cash the fraudulent tax refund checks. (Bankers in on the scam – we haven’t seen this before.) The defendant also was charged with causing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to issue fraudulently-obtained tax refunds onto prepaid debit cards. He recruited a co-conspirator to wire-transfer cash from one of those debit cards.
The 21-year-old man pleaded guilty to stealing personal identification information from a pile of old scholarship applications he received from a friend who happened to work on a college campus. (Time to invest in a shredder!) He filed more than 30 false claims with stolen identities between the 2009 – 2011 tax return seasons and was ordered to pay more than $280,000 in restitution.
Looking on the bright side, the prosecution of this fraudster prevented more than $750,000 from landing in his hands. His prison sentence begins in May 2013, just after he completes his semester at a Florida community college. (I’m assuming he’s a student. Of course, he could be teaching a Tax Refund Fraud 101 class. We’ve seen that before.)
So what happened to the bank tellers? They both pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. One teller received a year in prison, three years of supervised release and owes restitution of more than $87,000. The other teller was sentenced to five years of probation and eight months of home detention with electronic monitoring. She was ordered to pay restitution of more than $73,000, a minimum of $100 a month. (At that rate, it will take almost 734 months or 61 years to pay back – without interest.)
It’s a fact that there are many people who try to take advantage of others for their personal gain. Unfortunately, this guy has started young. Hopefully, a little time behind bars will improve his integrity and put him on the right path. According to his lawyer, the student accepts full responsibility for his actions and plans to finish his degree when he gets out of prison. (Guessing he’s going to go for an accounting degree.)