Highway Robbery

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38799675 - hundred dollar bills on wood table

Seems like these tax fraud plots have taken a turn for the worse – now involving violent gun threats. April was a tough month for Tampa, Florida, with two incidents of thievery from mail trucks within two weeks of each other. In today’s Fraud of the Day from the Tampa Bay Times, a mailman was distributing mail in Sulphur Springs when a gun was pointed at him, soon moving directly up against his head. The assailant was after the main subject of the season – tax refund checks.

The article reports that on April 25, the robber held up the mailman at gunpoint and ordered him to drive his mail truck to another location where a car was waiting to pick the thief up. While en route, the gunman asked where the tax refund checks were kept – and took off with several of them before hopping into a get-away car. This attack comes only two weeks after 200 pieces of mail were stolen from another mail truck in the area. (The drug dealers turned tax refund scammers just miss the old days with guns and cars.? Thankfully, no one was injured in either of Tampa’s April incidents.

Sadly, these aren’t the first incidents of this kind – they just appear to be happening more frequently than ever before. In December 2010, a Pembroke Pines mailman was shot and killed for his mailbox key – and in June 2011 another mailman from Hollywood, California was held at gunpoint and robbed while on the job. And on a less violent, but still noteworthy attempt, in 2011 a married couple in New Jersey pleaded guilty to following around mail trucks and stealing tax refund and Social Security checks from mailboxes before the residents could get to them.

There are no suspects in either of Tampa’s April incidents, but Tampa police have released that they are currently working on safety plans for mail carriers. Furthermore, the IRS has announced a pilot program in Tampa in which local investigators will be able to access actual fraudulent tax returns in order to prove identity theft more easily. (Identity theft often goes hand-in-hand with tax refund fraud.)

So, the question of the day is: has your jurisdiction seen an increase in violence connected with tax return or another type of government benefit fraud?

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, ”Robbery of Mail Carrier in Tampa Marks Escalation in Tax Fraud Schemes” by Marissa Lang and Robbyn Mitchell of Tampa Bay Times, April 26, 2012.

The postman was sorting through the mail on his route when he felt a gun. ”Don’t move,” the assailant instructed.

Postman Merrill Hadcock, 48, soon learned what the gunman was after: tax refund checks.

 

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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.