With another tax season descending on us, you might want to secure your W-2 or 1099 a little tighter. Over the past 12 months, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami has uncovered more than a dozen rackets involved in stealing tax refund checks using stolen identities of social security applicants, elderly and disabled folks, Marines serving in Afghanistan, and even a corpse.
Each case makes you want to guard your personal information by scrubbing your entire existence from the Internet and equipping your bank debit cards with the super-sophisticated computer worm Stuxnet.
Banana Republican has compiled 10 of the most egregious acts of fake tax refund scams in south Florida as a public service announcement:
Back on Feb. 9, federal agents busted down Dorothy Boulin's studio apartment in Miami where they found several lists with the names, dates of birth, and social security numbers for dozens of U.S. Marines serving in Afhganistan. A month earlier, Boulin used the information to file fraudulent tax returns to get refund checks. Turns out Boulin got the stolen data from the Marines' fellow unit member, 23-year-old Jobson Cenor. The same day of the raid, the feds spied on a conversation between Boulin and Cenor in which he discussed the two of them splitting the proceeds from the fake tax returns. He provided her with the information by typing it into an e-mail draft and then giving her the log-in information to the e-mail account.
Both of the thieves pled guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. She was sentenced to 70 months in prison, while he got 57 months.
On Oct. 4, law enforcement officials raided Frantz Auguste's dry cleaning business in North Miami Beach where they found a locked room containing hand-written notes and lists with names, dates of birth, and social security numbers for more than 100 individuals; multiple tax refund checks in the names of different indivdiuals; and multiple tax returns in the names of different individuals. Many of the identified names were of people residing in an assisted living facility.
Auguste recently pled guilty to one count of access device fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
Debit card degenerates
An April 27 search of 32-year-old Kerly Joseph's apartment turned up 73 pre-paid debit cards in different names, a notebook and several computer printouts containing lists of more than 700 names, dates of birth, and social security numbers. Approximately $161,000 in fraudulent tax refunds had been deposited onto 22 of the cards.
In a separate unrelated complaint, the feds alleged 23-year-old Mavince Milfort used personal identity information stolen from a social security office to file false tax returns using the online Turbo Tax program. Milfort directed the IRS to deposit refunds onto reloadable debit cards. Agents seized four notebooks containing 200 names and personal identification information, more than 500 stolen social security documents, more than 100 pre-paid debit cards, and $24,480 in cash.
Jospeh pled guilty on July 9 to one count of access device fraud and one count of identity theft. He was sentenced to 78 months in prison. Milfort pled guilty to four counts of identity theft, one count of theft of government money and one count of access device fraud. He was sentenced to 24 months in prison.
Volunteer information jackers
Between April to October 2011, 18-year-old Carlos Orozco volunteered at a social security office in Pembroke Pines where he helped himself to social security applications that he sold to Jean LaFrance, a 28-year-old man from North Miami. LaFrance then filed false tax returns using victims' personal information and had the IRS direct deposit the ill gotten government loot onto reloadable debit cards.
LaFrance and Orozco were criminally charged on Feb. 13 on one count of conspiracy to submit false tax return claims. LaFrance was also charged with one count of theft of government money and one count of aggravated identity theft. Both men are awaiting trial.
The enterprising law clerk
While working for a North Miami law firm, 28-year-old Rodney Saintfleur accessed Lexis Nexis, an online proprietary database, to obtain names, dates of birth, and social security numbers on more than 26,000 people. He provided a lot of that stolen data to his co-conspirators, who would file fraudulent tax returns.
On Nov. 27, Saintfleur pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government, one count of access device fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft.
On July 12, the feds indicted Christian Andres Perin, Venancio Oscar Pio, and Olga Rosana Garcia with one count each of conspiracy to submit false claims to the IRS. Perin was also charged with seven counts of stealing tax refund checks.
According to the feds, their scam was to use the identities of foreign nationals living outside the United States to file for fraudulent tax refunds. They created false W-2, W-7, and 1040 forms with fictitious employer information, income and withhold amounts. The illegally obtained funds would be deposited into bank accounts or mailed to Perin and Acosta.
Personal foul penalty
William Joseph once starred for the University of Miami football team and went on to play in the NFL. Now he's just a low-life tax return scam artist. The feds watched him cash 13 fraudulent refund checks totalling $70,000 at a North Miami financial services store authorities where watching between February and April. Joseph provided an undercover agent with fake identification documents and forged signatures on the checks.
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He pled guilty on Aug. 31 to one count of theft of government money and one count of identity theft. On Nov. 30, Joseph was sentenced to two years in prison.
The million dollar scam man
David Forbes had the IRS deposit $1.5 million into his personal and corporate bank accounts after he filed fraudulent tax returns using stolen identities of dozens of unsuspecting victims. The government seized $888,000 and his bank froze about $98,255 when Forbes was busted.
He pled guilty on Nov. 5 to five separate counts of theft of government monies.