News and Press Releases

Respiratory Therapist Pleads Guilty in Identity Theft Tax Refund Fraud Scheme Involving Theft of Hundreds of Patients’ Personal Identity Information

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 16, 2013

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Michael J. DePalma, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), and Paula Reid, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, announced that defendant Betty Cole, 34, of Miami, pled guilty yesterday for her participation in a stolen identity tax refund scheme. Sentencing is scheduled for September 23, 2013 at 11:15 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenbaum.

Cole pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess fifteen or more unauthorized access devices in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1029(b)(2), and one count of aggravated identity theft in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A. At sentencing, the defendant faces a maximum term of imprisonment of seven years.

According to the plea documents, from in or around June 2011, continuing through February 2012, Cole worked as a respiratory therapist at South Miami Hospital (“SMH”) in Miami, Florida. The defendant had access to names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers (together, personal identity information or “PII”) of patients in the course of her job duties. In or around June 2011, Alci Bonannee asked the defendant to provide Bonannee with PII of SMH patients. In or around June 2011, and again in or around February 2012, Cole obtained the PII of SMH patients and provided that information to Bonannee.

Bonanee used the personal identity information to file fraudulent tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service seeking refunds. Cole knew that Bonannee would use the personal identity information to submit fraudulent tax returns. Bonannee paid Cole thousands of dollars for over 800 patients’ personal identity information.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI and the U.S. Secret Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael N. Berger.

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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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