Nigerian National Faces New Stolen Identity Tax Refund Charges In 31-Count Federal Indictment Returned In New Jersey
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 8, 2014
NEWARK, N.J. - A Nigerian national who formerly resided in Livingston, N.J., was arraigned today on a 31-count superseding indictment charging him with participating in an $3 million scheme to use stolen identities to generate fraudulent tax refunds, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Kole Akinola, 40, allegedly engaged in a stolen identity refund fraud, or “SIRF,” scheme that resulted in more than $3 million in losses to the U.S. Treasury and the theft of the personal identification information of hundreds of individuals. Akinola was indicted April 1, 2014, and was arraigned on the charges today before U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares in Newark federal court. The superseding indictment charges Akinola with one count of conspiring to steal government funds, 10 counts of misusing the personal identification information of others, 10 counts of illegally using social security numbers and 10 counts of aggravated identity theft.
Akinola originally was arrested on a complaint in April 2011 and indicted in May 2011 on one count of conspiring to steal government funds in relation to an approximately four-month scheme to file fraudulent income tax returns to illegally obtain refunds. Akinola, who is subject to a final order of removal to Nigeria, has been detained since the time of his arrest. The new charges allege a conspiracy lasting approximately three years, including the time of his incarceration.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
In April 2011, Akinola was arrested for driving under the influence in Glen Ridge, N.J. At the time of arrest, Akinola was found to be in possession of debit cards and Turbo Tax receipts in the names of third parties; two composition books and loose papers containing the personal identifiers of numerous individuals, including names, social security numbers and dates of birth; a July 2007 inmate population report from Union County Correctional Facility, which included the names, social security numbers, and dates of birth of over 700 inmates; W-2 forms in the names of third parties, which included employer identification numbers, or “EINs”; and several cellular telephones and handheld electronic devices.
The government alleges that the personal identification information, EINs, and electronic devices found in Akinola’s possession at the time of his arrest were used in connection with a SIRF conspiracy to file numerous fraudulent tax returns seeking tax refunds.
Akinola and the other members of the conspiracy obtained personal identifiers – such as dates of birth and Social Security numbers – belonging to numerous U.S. citizens, including from inmate population reports from prison facilities. The conspirators used those identifiers to create fake 1040 forms, which falsely reported wages and withheld taxes to create the appearance that the “taxpayers” were entitled to tax refunds. The returns were filed electronically with the IRS and generated refunds.
Members of the conspiracy then directed the refunds onto pre-paid debit cards, which were mailed to addresses in New Jersey and elsewhere, where they could be retrieved by the conspirators. They then used the pre-paid debit cards to make ATM withdrawals and purchases in New Jersey for their personal use and benefit.
As recently as July 2013, while incarcerated at Hudson County Correctional Facility, Akinola was found to be illegally in possession of a cellular telephone and three prison inmate population reports, from three separate dates, that contained the names and personal identification information of hundreds of inmates.
The conspiracy count carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison; each count of misuse of personal identification information carries a maximum potential penalty of 15 years in prison; each count of illegal use of a Social Security number carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison; and each aggravated identity theft count carries a mandatory penalty of two years in prison, which would be consecutive to any term imposed for a conviction of illegal use of a Social Security number. Each count also carries a maximum $250,000 fine.
U.S. Attorney Fishman praised special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Jonathan D. Larsen; and postal inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge Marie Kelokates, for the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph B. Shumofsky and Andrew S. Pak of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.
The charges and allegations contained in the superseding indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Defense counsel: Assistant Federal Public Defender K. Anthony Thomas Esq., Newark