FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 1, 2013
CAMDEN, N.J. – A Florida man today admitted using his position in a doctor’s office to steal personal identifying information as part of his role in running a stolen identity refund fraud scheme, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Berness Swan, 44, of Spring Hill, Fla., formerly of Sicklerville, N.J., pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Renée Marie Bumb, to an information charging him with one count of theft of government property and one count of aggravated identity theft. Swan caused numerous fraudulent U.S. income tax returns to be filed, which sought thousands of dollars in tax refunds and resulted in losses to the United States of more than $120,000.
Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF) is a common type of fraud that results in more than $2 billion in losses annually to the U.S. Treasury. SIRF schemes generally share a number of hallmarks:
• SIRF perpetrators obtain personal identifying information, including Social Security numbers and dates of birth, from unwitting individuals;
• SIRF participants complete Individual Income Tax Return 1040 Forms using the fraudulently-obtained information, and falsify wages earned, taxes withheld and other data. Perpetrators use data to make it appear that the “taxpayers” listed on the fraudulent 1040 form are entitled to tax refunds – when in fact, the various tax withholdings indicated have not been paid and no refunds are due;
• SIRF perpetrators direct the U.S. Treasury Department to issue the refunds through checks to locations they control or can access, in various ways.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Swan was employed by the Phoenix Medical Group in Mount Laurel, N.J., from Jan. 8, 2009, through March 23, 2012. Swan had access to numerous individuals’ personal identifying information, including Social Security numbers and dates of birth. Swan stole the personal identifying information and used it to file fraudulent income tax returns with the IRS. Swan sought federal tax refunds in filing the tax returns. The Department of the Treasury issued tax refunds to numerous bank accounts Swan had so that Swan could access the money for his personal benefit.
U.S. Attorney Fishman praised special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Shantelle P. Kitchen, for the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.
The count of theft of government property is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. The count of aggravated identity theft is punishable by a statutory, mandatory two-year consecutive prison term to the sentence the court will impose on the theft of government property count. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 7, 2014.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney R. Stephen Stigall, Attorney-in-Charge of the U.S. Attorney’s Camden Branch Office.
Defense counsel: Mark W. Catanzaro Esq., Mt. Holly, N.J.