Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Prosecutions On The Rise
Jackson, Miss – Today U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis and Gabriel Grchan, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS CI) announced the results of ongoing efforts in the Southern District of Mississippi to combat tax refund fraud involving identity theft. The U.S. Department of Justice has prioritized the investigation and prosecution of individuals who engage in stolen identity refund fraud (SIRF). IRS Criminal Investigation has increased its investigative efforts relating to SIRF and Questionable Refund/Return Preparer Fraud (QRP/RPP).
SIRF is the use of stolen or otherwise wrongfully acquired personal identification information to file a fraudulent claim with the IRS for a tax refund. These crimes occur when a social security number, or list of numbers, is stolen or bought; a false tax return showing a refund due is filed electronically, usually at the beginning of filing season before the legitimate taxpayer has filed for the year. The actual implementation of SIRF schemes is often complex to carry out. In an increasing number of cases, the identities are stolen or purchased from a single source, and the tax refunds obtained are directed to another location, with the connections being distant and difficult to trace.
Recent tax-related prosecutions originating in the Southern District of Mississippi are highlighted below:
Marietta Harris, 38, of Jackson, pled guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States. Harris and her co-conspirators used personal identifying information, including names and social security numbers, which had been stolen from the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Rankin County, the University of Mississippi Medical Center and other locations. The information was used to file false tax returns with the IRS. Refunds were electronically deposited into various bank accounts in Mississippi belonging to Harris and her co-conspirators. She will be sentenced on May 15, 2014 and faces a maximum penalty of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Christopher Johnson, 33, of Hattiesburg, pled guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States. Johnson and his co-conspirators obtained personal identification information from unwitting victims, had false income tax returns filed in their names and the refunds deposited into one of three bank accounts controlled by Johnson. During the course of the scheme, Johnson and his co-conspirators obtained $58,000 in stolen tax refunds from the IRS.
Kimberly Givens, 42, of Brandon, Nathaniel Cooper, 29, of Lena, and Latorra Gross, 29, of Morton, have been indicted for conspiracy and filing false tax returns with the IRS. They are scheduled for trial on June 2, 2014.
Flowers Curtis, 56, of Hermanville, has been indicted on 20 counts of filing false claims in connection with a false refund scheme executed in Claiborne and Franklin Counties. He is scheduled for trial during the term commencing June 2, 2014.
Pennie Frazier, 33, of Jackson, has been indicted for filing false claims, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The indictment alleges that Frazier executed a scheme to file false tax returns with the IRS using the identities of others. She is scheduled for trial on May 6, 2014.
Timothy Benjamin Taylor, Verneshia Cody, Niki Antoinette Rivers, Cheryl Dominque Warren and Stephen Graham have been indicted for conspiracy to file false income tax returns. The indictment alleges they used the names and identifying information of patients at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta. The indictment also alleges that Cody, owner and operator of TDK Accounting and Tax Services in Hinds County, conspired to create and file false income tax returns with the IRS which requested the payment of fraudulent tax refunds. The indictment further alleges that Taylor and the other defendants created false driver's licenses, earnings statements, and other documents in the names of the victims to further support the information contained on the fraudulent income tax returns. This case is set for trial on May 6, 2014.
The punishment for an identity theft related offense can reach a maximum of 30 years in federal prison, in addition to fines, restitution, and/or forfeiture of the property used to commit the offense.
Refund fraud poses a significant threat to our nation’s tax system, and diminishes taxpayer confidence. IRS – Criminal Investigation initiated over 1,400 investigations and recommended prosecution of over 1,250 individuals who were involved in identity theft crimes during the 2013 fiscal year. Those numbers represent significant increases from the prior fiscal year. 1
U.S. Attorney Davis has pledged his commitment and resources to helping the IRS combat refund fraud in the Southern District of Mississippi.
“Often the victims of identity theft are the most vulnerable members of our communities. When combined with income tax fraud, all honest taxpayers are victims when wrongful claims are paid out,” said Gregory Davis, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi. “This office is committed to constant vigilance along with our partners, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, U.S. Secret Service, and U.S. Postal Inspection Service, in investigating and prosecuting those who cause harm to the U.S. taxpayers. ”
“Seeking out and prosecuting individuals who commit violations of the tax laws is the main focus of the work we do at IRS Criminal Investigation. We greatly appreciate the United States Attorney’s Office, and their commitment to the prosecution of these cases,” said Gabriel Grchan, Special Agent in Charge, IRS-CI, New Orleans Field Office. “It is my hope that these indictments, and other legal actions further assure the taxpaying citizens of our country that IRS – CI is fully engaged in the war against those who attempt to steal from the United States Treasury.”
Criminal cases related to Identity Theft are investigated by the Jackson ID Theft Task Force which includes IRS Criminal Investigation, U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Postal Inspection Service. They are handled by the Economic Crimes Unit of the United States Attorney’s Office.
If you believe that you or someone you know may have had a tax return filed under your name as the result of identity theft, please visit www.IRS.gov, call 1-800-829-1040 or visit your local IRS office for further information.
The public is reminded that the charges contained in an indictment are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
1 Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Annual Business Report
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