Asking for Mercy


The U.S. Constitution makes it a point to separate church and state. But, what happens when a fraudster uses the church as a vehicle to steal federal money? According to a Tampa Bay Online article, one Tampa man did not hesitate to bring in a higher power to help with his illegal activity.

It’s getting tough for fraudsters in Florida. The government is cracking down on them, forcing them to be creative in perpetrating fraud. The article reports the case of one Florida man who likely thought he was clever to continue his fraudulent activities through a divine location – the church. (Really? Is there even an appropriate comment to insert for such an inappropriate action?? Working with his uncle, a pastor for an Alabama church, the two schemed to deposit more than $235,000 of Treasury checks into the church’s bank account. After his scheme was uncovered, the fraudster and his uncle pleaded guilty to similar charges of conspiracy, theft of public money and aggravated identity theft. (Yes, there should be a lot of pleas in this man’s future.)

Court documents revealed that the fraudster would receive the checks from the tax returns and then send them to his uncle, who was responsible for depositing them into the church’s bank account. The two schemers in question told the court that the uncle kept 25% of the earnings, while the rest was left for the fraudster himself. (If you’re going to sin, at least get a good cut of the proceeds.)<i? Further investigations connected the tax returns with addresses in care of another suspected individual, who was charged with being a felon in possession of a weapon.

It looks like this fraudster didn’t sit through his middle school history classes. He should know never to mix church and state, or mess with the federal government for that matter. Regardless of his inability to recall history from the yesteryears, this man and his uncle may find themselves asking for quite a bit of mercy at the next Sunday service, or for many services to come.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, ”Tampa Man Used Church in Tax Refund Fraud,” published by Tampa Bay Online on February 9, 2013.

When police made things in Tampa too hot for tax refund fraud, Victor Williams turned to a higher power.

Williams asked his uncle, a pastor for an Alabama church, to help him by laundering fraudulent income tax refund checks through the church’s bank account.


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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.