Three Miami Men Sentenced in Identity Theft Tax Refund Fraud Scheme
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), Antonio J. Gomez, Acting Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and Sergio Velazquez, Chief, Hialeah Police Department, announced that defendants Lineten Belizaire, 22, Earnest Baldwin, 36, and Earl Baldwin, 42 all of Miami, were sentenced today for their participation in a $1.7 million identity theft tax refund fraud scheme. Specifically, U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga sentenced Belizaire to 129 months in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. Defendant Earnest Baldwin was sentenced to 172 months in prison, to be followed by 4 years of supervised release and defendant Earl Baldwin was sentenced to 84 months in prison, followed by 4 years of supervised release. Judge Altonaga ordered that a restitution hearing be held within 90 days.
Lineten Belizaire pled guilty to access device fraud and aggravated identity theft on March 18, 2013. Earnest and Earl Baldwin were convicted at trial on April 10, 2013, on charges of conspiracy to defraud the government, conspiracy to commit access device fraud, access device fraud, and multiple counts of aggravated identity theft. On April 17, 2013 co-defendant Marckell Steward, 21, of Miami, was sentenced to 72 months in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release for his participation in the identity theft tax refund fraud scheme. Steward had previously pled guilty to conspiracy to commit access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.
According to court documents and testimony, Lineten Belizaire, along with co-conspirators Earnest and Earl Baldwin, and Marckell Steward, were involved in an identity theft tax fraud scheme that operated from July 2011 through June 2012. During the course of their fraud scheme, approximately $1.7 million in fraudulent refund claims were submitted to the IRS for payment.
According to documents filed in court, Belizaire conspired with Steward and Earnest and Earl Baldwin on a plan to use stolen personal identification information of others to file fraudulent and unauthorized tax returns claiming refunds on debit cards. Some of the refund claims were filed from Earl Baldwin's residence. According to the factual proffer, Belizaire exchanged text messages with Steward in which the defendants sent and received personal identification information of victims and also sent and received debit card account numbers that were used for receiving victims’ tax refunds.
As stated in trial testimony and evidence, Earnest Baldwin possessed more than 1,000 names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers and approximately 40 pre-paid debit cards in other people’s names. Among the papers seized were high school report cards with identity information and data from an organization for disabled persons containing identity information. The evidence at trial also showed that Earnest and Earl Baldwin withdrew money from debit cards loaded with fraudulently obtained refunds. According to plea documents, more than 80 fraudulent tax returns using stolen identifications were electronically filed from the IP address belonging to the Belizaire. Defendant Belizaire was also observed on ATM video withdrawing money on multiple occasions from debit cards loaded with fraudulent tax refunds.
Mr. Ferrer commended IRS-CID, USPIS, and the Hialeah Police Department for their work on the case. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael N. Berger and Maurice Johnson.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.