Two Sentenced For Using Stolen Identities To Claim Millions In Fraudulent Income Tax Refunds
Public Affairs Officer
CINCINNATI – Tawanda Marimbire, 25, of Cincinnati was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 70 months in prison for his role in a scheme to use stolen identities to obtain at least $5 million in fraudulent tax refunds. Co-conspirator Kudzaishe Robert Bungu, 28, was sentenced to 27 months in prison.
Carter M. Stewart, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Mark Porter, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, and Kathy Enstrom, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office (IRS), announced the sentences handed down yesterday by Chief U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott.
In early 2012, the Secret Service and IRS began investigating a large ring of individuals around the Cincinnati community who were using stolen identities to file fraudulent income tax returns and then steal the fraudulent tax refunds. Members of the ring purchased stolen identities for thousands of actual taxpayers through illicit online forums and from accomplices. The undisputed head of the scheme was Kudzaiishe Marimbire, the brother of Tawanda Marimbire. Most of the stolen funds were laundered and sent to Zimbabwe.
On April 11, 2012, government agents executed a search at several locations. They seized numerous luxury cars, computers, and tax documents. They also found more than $1 million in cash and money orders in a storage locker used by the Marimbire ring. Several members of the group immediately fled the Cincinnati area. Kudzaiishe Marimbire, Hlomera Mabhande, Andrew Bere, and Julius Marimbire fled to Zimbabwe and are fugitives. Tawanda Marimbire was arrested days after the search as he attempted to cross the Canadian border with about $76,000 in cash. Johanes Tagarisa was eventually arrested in Atlanta months after the seven were indicted in September 2012. He pleaded guilty on December 10, 2013 to one count of conspiracy and is awaiting sentencing.
Tawanda Marimbire pleaded guilty on January 15, 2013 to one count of wire fraud. Bungu pleaded guilty on December 17, 2012 to one count of engaging in illegal monetary transactions.
“This case is a perfect example of the emerging problem with tax refunds obtained through the use of stolen identities,” U.S. Attorney Stewart said. “In 2012, around the same time that this case was investigated and indicted, the Department of Justice announced a new directive to fight this exact scheme, which was named ‘stolen identity refund fraud’ or ‘SIRF.’”
IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Kathy A. Enstrom said, “Individuals who commit refund fraud and identity theft of this magnitude and with this degree of trickery, dishonesty and deceit, deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. IRS Criminal Investigation remains committed to the pursuit of refund fraud and identity theft, and together with our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, we will hold those who engage in similar conduct accountable.”
Others charged as a result of the ongoing investigation include:
* Tinotende Madyira, 25, sold a list of stolen identities to Kudzaishe Marimbire. He pleaded guilty to identity theft and was sentenced to 12 months and 1 day of imprisonment.
• Liberty Matonhodze, 25, working for Bungu, he was involved in withdrawing the refunds from the debit cards at ATMs. He was sentenced to 12 months and 1 day of imprisonment, plus restitution of $120,000.
• Fitzgerald Chibamu, 36, was involved with Kudzaiishe Marimbire in the transfer of the stolen funds through his bank accounts to Zimbabwe. He has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
• Charges are pending against Lameigo Mutongwiza and Zla Holder, indicted on November 6, 2013.
U.S. Attorney Stewart commended the cooperative investigation by the Secret Service and IRS, as well as Assistant United States Attorney Timothy Mangan, who is representing the United States in this case.