Miami Resident Convicted in Stolen Identity Tax Refund 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 (IRS-CI), and Alysa D. Erichs, Special Agent In Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), ,announce that Cliffort Variste, 34, of Miami, was convicted by a federal jury of one count of access device fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1029(a)(2), and five counts of aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A(a)(1). The trial was held before U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen M. Williams. Sentencing is scheduled for June 5, 2014. Variste faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison for the access device charge, and a mandatory term of two years in prison for each aggravated identity theft charge, at least one of which must be served consecutive to any other term in prison.
According to the indictment and evidence presented at trial, Variste obtained an IRS Electronic Filing Identification Number (“EFIN”) and used it to file approximately 52 fraudulent tax returns, many filed with stolen identities. Variste used these returns to obtain fraudulent income tax refunds, which he had deposited on to prepaid debit cards which he controlled. Variste then made numerous withdrawals and purchases on the debit cards for his own personal gain. All of the fraudulent debit cards were issued in the names of real people whose identities were stolen as part of the tax fraud.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI and HSI. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Frank Maderal and Vanessa Snyder.
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.