During a routine traffic stop, a driver is usually questioned, asked to present a driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance. When an officer pulled over a man from Miami, Florida who was travelling through Lowndes County, Georgia, he found more than he ever expected. While searching the driver, his passengers and the contents of the car, the officer discovered evidence to substantiate a tax fraud scheme that stole more than half a million dollars from the U.S Treasury.
The Florida driver was originally pulled over for failing to stay within the lane and for having a window-tint violation. After approaching the vehicle, the officer saw three people in the vehicle and smelled the strong odor of marijuana. (A search by deputies ensued and evidence found during the “not so routine” traffic stop suggested there was more to the story than just poor driving skills and tinted windows.)
During the traffic stop search, deputies found multiple credit cards, three laptops, six cellphones, an iPad and notebooks with some pretty personal information. (We’re talking 1,500 names, birthdates, bank routing numbers and Social Security numbers.)
An investigation ensued, and it was discovered that the driver of the car and his two co-conspirators had been using the personal information of many victims, without their permission, to file fraudulent tax returns since 2011. Just during the years 2010, 2011 and 2012, more than 1,200 bogus refund checks claiming more than $1.6 million in tax returns were generated due to their fraudulent actions. (The fraudsters collected a bit more than $580,000 from those false tax refund claims.)
The 34-year-old Miamian was charged with conspiracy to steal and embezzle public money, one count of possession of unauthorized access devices and 18 counts of aggravated identity theft. In his plea deal regarding his tax fraud scheme, the fraudster pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge in exchange for all other charges being dropped. The fraudster was sentenced to five years in federal prison and must pay $582,751 in restitution to the U.S. Treasury.
While there was nothing routine about this traffic stop, the justice system does have a routine for catching and prosecuting fraud as evidenced by this particular case. Congratulations goes to the Lowndes County, Georgia Sheriff’s Office and the Internal Revenue Service for taking the chaos out of this fraud case and making it an example of what happens when criminals disobey the law. (One way or another, criminals will eventually be caught.)
Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, “Fla. man sentenced in Valdosta for tax fraud,” published by Valdosta Daily Times on August 16, 2018.
VALDOSTA — A Miami man was sentenced in federal court Wednesday for taking part in a fraudulent tax refund scheme, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Tony Cherenfant, 34, was sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge Hugh Lawson to 60 months in federal prison and ordered to make restitution to the United States Treasury in the amount of $582,751, according to a justice department statement.