It’s hard to wait for something that we have long anticipated. Whether it is a child’s dream to receive a new bike for his birthday or the long-awaited arrival of a soldier returning from a foreign conflict, we have great expectations attached to getting what we want. Criminals also have great hopes and dreams for getting something they want from their victims. In a press release, the Department of Justice details the case of two fraudsters who obtained personal identification information and filed false tax returns in anticipation of receiving refunds for which they were not entitled.
The press release states that a woman from Anchorage and a man from Los Angeles conspired with two others to use names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers to falsely prepare federal W-2 forms, which contained fabricated wage and withholding amounts. The co-conspirators used several tax return preparation services in Alaska and California to electronically submit the documents to the federal government.
The criminals were out to get as much money as possible, so they increased the refund amounts on the fake returns by claiming dependent children. (You can count on criminals to be greedy.) Refund amounts totaled between $1,400 and $8,600 each. The fraudsters also applied for refund anticipation loans, which were loaded on stored value cards, allowing instant access to the money even if the government rejected the claim later.
As you might guess, the criminals took the money and ran right to a car dealership, where a Mercedes was purchased. (If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: fraudsters love their fancy cars.) The illegally acquired tax returns were also used to purchase a variety of personal items.
Both the man and the woman entered guilty pleas for conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with filing false income tax returns as well as aggravated identity theft. One of the co-conspirators is a fugitive and the other one has an impending court date. The defendants each face up to 20 years in prison for wire fraud and a mandatory two-year consecutive sentence for the identity theft. The maximum fine is $250,000.
The co-defendants were fixated on the rewards from obtaining illegal tax refunds, not on the punishment if caught for their deceptive deeds. There is no doubt that they will have to shift their expectations from anticipating a comfortable lifestyle to the reality that they will be spending a long time in an uncomfortable prison.