Kaufman County Man Admits Using Identities Of Deceased Persons To Claim Federal Income Tax Refunds
DALLAS — Jason Cano appeared today in federal court in Dallas, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Renée Harris Toliver, and pleaded guilty to one count of filing false, fictitious and fraudulent claims against the U.S. and one count of aggravated identity theft, announced U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.
Cano faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison on the fraudulent claims count. The aggravated identity theft count carries a mandatory penalty of two years in federal prison, which must be served consecutively to any sentence he receives on the false claims count. In addition, each count carries a possible fine of up to $250,000 and restitution could be ordered. Sentencing is set for May 10, 2013.
A criminal complaint was filed in January 2012 charging Cano with making false, fictitious or fraudulent claims, aggravated identity theft and wire fraud. In February 2012, a federal grand jury returned an 11-count indictment charging Cano with five counts of wire fraud, five counts of false, fictitious or fraudulent claims and one count of aggravated identity theft. He was arrested several months later, in September 2012, by special agents with Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), in the Trenton, New Jersey area, and has been in federal custody since that time.
According to the factual resume filed in the case, beginning in 2008 and continuing through February 24, 2011, Cano prepared and filed at least 497 fraudulent federal income tax returns, claiming $883,427 in refunds, by using the names and social security numbers of deceased individuals. In fact, many of the identities were those of deceased 16-year-olds that the defendant had obtained from the Social Security death index, that was accessible through a number of public websites for a period of time.
The factual resume also states that Cano fabricated a Form W-2 for each return that contained a fictitious amount of paid wages and tax withholding, and those W-2 forms were purportedly issued by one of three employers, HI-LO Ozark Automotive, Labor Ready or Pappy’s Sand and Gravel. Cano filed most of these returns electronically using Turbo Tax and each return he filed requested that the refund be deposited into a reloadable prepaid debit card that Cano had acquired. After the refunds were loaded, Cano would use the cards for his own use and benefit, or provide them to friends and associates for their use.
In fact, according to the complaint filed in the case, the investigation into Cano’s activities began when IRS CI received information from a fraud compliance officer, at a company that issues stored value cards and prepaid debit cards, that an individual received three federal income tax refunds on one prepaid card. Generally, each tax payer is issued only one tax refund.
According to both the complaint and factual resume, on February 25, 2011, a federal search warrant was executed at Cano’s residence in Kemp, Texas, and IRS-CI agents seized dozens of documents containing the names, social security numbers, wages, employer information and direct deposit account numbers associated with the fraudulent returns he filed. The factual resume also states that a forensic exam of computers seized revealed that the Turbo Tax website had been accessed 1,876 times and the IRS website and bank-related websites had been accessed hundreds of times.
In September 2012, the Justice Department’s Tax Division issued a new directive to further the efforts of the Tax Division and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to respond quickly and effectively to the challenges in stolen identity refund fraud (SIRF) cases. Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found at http://www.justice.gov/tax/
IRS-CI is in charge of the investigation; Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Stokes is in charge of the prosecution.