Seven Defendants Charged in Identity Theft Tax Refund Fraud Scheme
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Donnell Young, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), and Amos Rojas, Jr., U.S. Marshal, U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), announce the indictment of seven individuals for their roles in a stolen identity tax refund fraud scheme. The indictment charges defendants Lukner Blanc, 31, of Royal Palm Beach, Frank Fleuzinord, 29, of Cape Coral, Jean Juste, a/k/a “Junior” or “Shorty,” 24, of West Palm Beach, Benoit Placide, a/k/a “Snow” or “Mario,” 26, of West Palm Beach, Shelda Phadael, 28, of Lake Worth, Marie Claude, 25, of Lantana, and Marie Demesyeux, 29, of Lake Worth. Six of the defendants have been arrested. Fleuzinord remains at-large.
Defendants Phadael, Claude, and Demesyeux were arraigned today before United States Magistrate Judge Dave Lee Brannon. All three of the defendants pled not guilty. A trial date has not yet been set. Placide’s arraignment is scheduled for August 26, 2014, Juste’s arraignment is scheduled for August 27, 2014, and Blanc’s arraignment is scheduled for August 28, 2014.
All defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to receive, conceal and retain monies stolen from the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.
In addition, Defendant Blanc is charged with three counts of theft of government money, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641, nine counts of aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A(a)(1), and five counts of wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343. Defendant Fleuzinord is charged with two counts of aggravated identity theft. Defendant Juste was charged with one count of theft of government money, five counts of aggravated identity theft, and five counts of wire fraud. Defendant Placide is charged with five counts of aggravated identity theft and five counts of wire fraud. Defendant Phadael is charged with one count of theft of government money.
Defendants Claude and Demesyeux are each charged with one count of perjury, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1623(a), for making a false statement while testifying under oath before a Federal Grand Jury.
According to court documents, the defendants stole the identities of real persons (names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers) and used the information to file fraudulent income tax returns online to the IRS. The defendants opened personal bank accounts and purchased debit cards that were utilized to receive the fraudulent income tax refunds. After the fraudulent refunds were sent by wire to the bank accounts and debit cards, the defendants and their co-conspirators withdrew the funds at automatic teller machines (ATMs) and point of sale electronic terminals at various retail establishments.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum of five years in prison for the conspiracy charge, a maximum of ten years in prison for the theft of government money charge, a mandatory term of two years in prison for the aggravated identity theft charge, a maximum of twenty years in prison for the wire fraud charge, and a maximum of five years in prison for the perjury charge.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI and the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Carlton.
An indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
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.