I’m sure you’ve had to make a return at a store before; regardless of the store and/or item(s), it’s usually a time consuming irritant. Options like pre-labeled shipping for returns when shopping online have made the ease of returning items just that, easy. The same goes for getting a return on your taxes. Unfortunately, the attempts to make the process easier by utilizing online submission forms, has made it easier for individuals to steal identities and tax refunds. According to a Fenceviewer article, one Maine fraudster thought she slipped through the cracks with the ease of her returns, only to find her method of choice to be a catalyst to her punishment.
Bag in hand you tread your way to the customer service department to return your unwanted item. You hop into a sluggish line, finally reaching your chance to make a return, typically interacting with an equally sluggish employee. (You mean to tell me you aren’t extremely excited to get your money back?) The process is usually a blood boiling nuisance, to which you’d prefer an easier option. So felt tax payers, which sparked the invention of the online tax return system. (Now getting your money back is even easier. Heck, even other people can claim your money!) For one Maine woman, a guilty plea to an eight count indictment of theft by deception, attempted theft by deception and forgery, earned her a sentence of four years in prison – with all but nine months and one day suspended – three years of probation and $28,318 in restitution. (I did forget to mention the probability of getting caught. It usually brings on some undesired consequences, far worse than waiting in a customer service line.)
According the Attorney General’s office, the woman had prepped and filed around 100 fraudulent federal and state income tax returns, as well as Maine property tax and rent refund applications. An investigation revealed she falsified income, withholding contact and identity information. (Well, they found her a new identity in the end, and it will likely be Prisoner #159A or something of the sort.) The discovery of the scheme is part of the Maine Revenue Services efforts to crack down on the increasing numbers of false tax refunds made via the internet. One member of the Maine Attorney General’s Office was quoted as saying: “Efforts to make income tax return filing easier and less time-consuming for citizens, through electronic filing and direct deposit, must not be abused by individuals determined to steal from state and federal treasuries.” The Maine Revenue Services office will continue “to pursue and prosecute those who attempt to steal tax money or defraud the state.”
It looks like hiding behind 100 different identities wasn’t a success for this Maine native. I’m sure she will learn her identity as an inmate. Here are some words of wisdom: “Be you. Everyone else is already taken.”