News and Press Releases

Defendants Sentenced for their Role in Tax Refund Fraud Utilizing Stolen Social Security Office Identity Information

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 20, 2012

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Guy P. Fallen, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG), and José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), announce that Carlos Orozco, 18, of Pembroke Pines, was sentenced today for his participation in a tax refund scheme that used stolen social security identity information. Orozco was charged and pled guilty to conspiracy to submit false claims to the government, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 286.

At today’s hearing, U.S. District Judge Robert Scola, Jr. sentenced Orozco to 12 months in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. In addition, the court ordered him to pay $82,708.13 in restitution to the United States Treasury.

Previously, on June 15, 2012, co-defendant Jean LaFrance, 28, of North Miami, was sentenced before U.S. District Judge Robert Scola, Jr., for his participation in the same scheme. LaFrance was charged and pled guilty to conspiracy to submit false claims to the government, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 286, theft of public money, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641, and aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A. LaFrance was sentenced to 33 months in prison on Counts 1 and 2, followed by a consecutive 24 months on Count 3, for a total sentence of 57 months in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $82,708.13 in restitution to the United States Treasury.

U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Identity theft is a precursor crime – it leads to credit card fraud, mortgage fraud, and, most recently, a viral proliferation of tax refund scams. Tackling this latest epidemic of fraud is a top priority for my office. For this reason, we have focused our attention and joined forces with our federal, state and local partners to combat a myriad of schemes through which fraudsters are attempting to steal taxpayers’ hard-earned refunds.”

“The SSA-OIG takes these cases very seriously. We will continue to investigate all allegations of fraud and abuse involving the SSA and will assist the United States Attorney’s Office in bringing violators to justice,” said Guy P. Fallen, Special Agent-in-Charge, Social Security Administration-Office of the Inspector General.

José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS-CID in Miami, stated, “These cases confirm our resolve to bring identity thieves to justice. IRS-CID will aggressively investigate individuals who steal personal identifying information for the purpose of committing tax fraud. We are working closely with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to uncover these types of schemes. Individuals who steal identities, file false tax returns claiming refunds that they are not entitled to, and obtain tax refunds though fraud will face federal charges.”

According to the charges filed in the case and statements made in court, between April and October 2011, Orozco worked as a volunteer at the SSA office in Pembroke Pines, Florida. In his position, Orozco had access to sensitive SSA documents that contained the personal identification information of SSA applicants, including their names, dates of birth, and social security numbers. Orozco stole sensitive documents from the SSA and, in exchange for cash payments and the promise of future payments from LaFrance, gave LaFrance the personal identification information of thousands of SSA applicants.

LaFrance then used the stolen information to file false federal income tax returns in the names of the SSA applicants. He filed the false tax returns over the internet, using Turbo Tax, an on-line tax filing program. In the filings, LaFrance claimed IRS tax refunds to which he was not entitled. To execute the scheme and access the money, LaFrance directed the IRS to deposit the refunds onto Turbo Tax Green Dot reloadable debit cards and to either mail the loaded debit cards to Orozco’s home or to other addresses that LaFrance controlled. Alternatively, LaFrance directed the IRS to simply load the fraudulently claimed refunds onto debit cards that he already possessed. Upon receipt of the loaded debit cards, LaFrance converted the refunds to cash.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the SSA-OIG and IRS-CID. This case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Anton.

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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.

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