News and Press Releases

Miami Man Sentenced in Identity Theft Tax Refund Fraud Scheme

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 18, 2013

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 (HPD), announced that defendant Marckell Steward, 21, of Miami, was sentenced yesterday for his participation in a $1.7 million identity theft tax refund fraud scheme. Specifically, U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga sentenced Steward to 72 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. A restitution hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at 9:45 a.m. Steward previously pled guilty to conspiracy to commit access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.

According to court documents and testimony, Steward along with co-conspirators Lineten Belizaire, 22, Earnest Baldwin, 36, and Earl Baldwin, 42 all of Miami, 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.

As stated in documents filed in court, Steward conspired with Belizaire 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, Steward exchanged text messages with Belizaire where the defendant 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 was found with over 1,000 individual names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers and approximately 40 pre-paid debit cards in other people’s names. Some of these papers seized included 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 fraudulent refunds in the names of victims in the papers and notebooks found on Earnest Baldwin.

Lineten Belizaire pled guilty to access device fraud and aggravated identity theft on March 18, 2013. He faces a maximum possible sentence of 12 years and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 28, 2013 at 8:30 AM before Judge Altonaga.

Sentencing for Earnest and Earl Baldwin has been scheduled for June 17, 2013 beginning at 8:30 AM before Judge Altonaga. Defendant Earnest Baldwin faces a maximum possible prison sentence of 41 years and defendant Earl Baldwin faces a maximum possible prison sentence of 29 years.

Mr. Ferrer commended IRS-CID, USPIS, and HPD for their work on the case. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael N. Berger and Maurice Johnson.

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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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