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According to a post about Stolen Identity Refund Fraud on the Department of Justice website, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reported that more than 5 million tax returns were filed using stolen identities during the 2013 tax filing season alone. (This resulted in more than $30 billion in illegally-obtained refunds. Fortunately, the IRS was able stop or recover more than $24 billion of the stolen funds.) One of the Tax Division’s highest priorities is to catch and prosecute criminals who use stolen personal identification information to file false tax returns and claim refunds which they do not deserve. A Department of Justice press release details the successful prosecution of an Alabama woman who participated in a multimillion-dollar stolen identity tax refund fraud (SIRF) scheme.
The release explains that the woman and her two co-conspirators prepared and filed more than 3,000 fake electronic tax returns and quickly received more than $7.5 million in federal income tax refunds in the form of treasury checks or prepaid debit cards. One co-conspirator supplied the woman with electronic filing identification numbers under bogus tax business names plus stolen identities used to file the tax returns. (Another co-conspirator provided stolen identities from two different state agencies she was employed at for over eight years.)
According to a prior press release about the case, the woman is facing a maximum of five years in prison for conspiracy and a minimum sentence of two years in prison for aggravated identity theft. She will also likely be responsible for monetary penalties including fines, forfeiture and restitution. (She is definitely responsible for a bunch of very unhappy victims.)
The accomplice who stole identities from two state agencies, pleaded guilty to her part in the scheme. She was sentenced to 87 months in prison. Further research shows that the other co-conspirator was also one of 10 suspects indicted for her alleged part in another $20 million SIRF scheme impacting approximately 7,000 victims. (She stole some of the identities from a State Department of Corrections along with active-duty military personnel.)
Unfortunately, everyone that possesses a Social Security Number (SSN) is vulnerable to SIRF fraud. (Due to the digital age, SIRF crimes can occur across state and even national borders.) The Tax Division has made great strides in implementing procedures that make it extremely difficult for SIRF schemes to be successful. In addition, SIRF prosecutions have been successful in generating long prison sentences that deter others from taking advantage of honest, tax-paying citizens. For more information on how to better protect your identity, visit this IRS web page.
Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on a press release titled, ”Alabama Woman Pleads Guilty for Role in Multimillion-Dollar Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Conspiracy,” released by the Department of Justice on August 19, 2015.
A Phenix City, Alabama, resident pleaded guilty today in the Middle District of Alabama to conspiracy and aggravated identity theft for her role in a multimillion-dollar stolen identity tax refund fraud (SIRF) scheme, Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney George L. Beck Jr. of the Middle District of Alabama announced.
According to court documents, between 2011 and June 2014, Talashia Hinton, also known as LayLay and LaLa, participated in a large-scale stolen identity tax refund conspiracy. The indictment alleges that the co-conspirators filed more than 3,000 false tax returns for 2012 and 2013 that falsely claimed more than $7.5 million in federal income tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Hinton worked with Keisha Lanier, who supplied her with IRS electronic filing identification numbers in the names of sham tax businesses and stolen identities that included personal information so that Hinton could prepare and file false tax returns to claim refunds using the stolen identities. At the direction of Lanier, Hinton also obtained identities from Tamika Floyd, who stole names from databases maintained by the state of Alabama. The false returns directed the IRS to pay the refunds by issuing U.S. Treasury checks and direct deposits onto prepaid debit cards.