Operators of Check Cashing Store Plead Guilty in Treasury Check Tax Refund Scheme
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Paula Reid, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, Miami Field Office, and Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), announced that defendants Wilson Lau, 75, and his wife, Kate Yuee Lau, 54, formerly of Coral Springs, FL, pled guilty today to one count of conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §371. In addition, Wilson Lau pled guilty to one count of aggravated identity theft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1028A.
Sentencing has been scheduled for July 20, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. in Miami, before U.S. District Judge Robert Scola. At sentencing, both defendants face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison on the conspiracy charge and, with respect to the aggravated identity theft conviction, Wilson Lau faces an additional two years in prison consecutive to any sentence imposed on the conspiracy charge. The defendants also agreed to the forfeiture allegation in the Information, which seeks, among other things, a money judgment against both defendants in the amount of $5,262,297.
According to court documents filed in connection with today’s guilty plea, Wilson Lau was the operator of a check cashing store called American Quick Cash Depot, located in Oakland Park, FL, where his wife Kate Yuee Lau also worked. From January 1, 2009 until approximately June 22, 2011, the defendants conspired to buy, sell and receive U.S. Treasury checks bearing forged endorsements and to receive and conceal U.S. Treasury tax refund checks and tax refund anticipation loan checks, knowing that the checks had been embezzled or stolen. In addition, on June 22, 2011, Wilson Lau transferred, possessed and used the social security number belonging to the rightful payee of a tax refund check cashed at American Quick Cash Depot.
According to court documents, Wilson Lau participated in a recorded conversation during which he cashed three U.S. Treasury tax refund checks knowing that they bore forged endorsements. In addition, the Laus are heard to instruct the individual who brought them the checks with forged endorsements to obtain fraudulent Florida drivers licenses in the names of the purported payees so that the defendants could falsely document the transactions.
In all, the defendants cashed approximately 4,000 U.S. Treasury tax refund checks and tax refund anticipation loan checks from January 1, 2009 through June 22, 2011, each of which was issued based upon fraud or bore forged endorsements, and each of which was accompanied by a false Florida drivers license. The face value of these checks was $5,262,297.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the U.S. Secret Service and IRS-CID. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard P. Murad.
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.