Six Long Island Men Charged with Using Stolen Social Security Numbers to File False Tax Returns
Identity Theft and Bribery Part of Multi-Million Dollar Scheme to Defraud U.S.
Three indictments were unsealed today in federal court in Central Islip, New York, charging six individuals, Luis Aquino, also known as “The Doctor,” Johans Cabrera, also known as “Life,” Randy Fernandez, Michael Figat, Ancelmo Rodriguez and Carlos Soto, in three separate indictments, each arising out of schemes to defraud the United States by using stolen Social Security numbers to file thousands of false income tax returns seeking refunds worth up to $73 million.1 Aquino will be arraigned this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge A. Kathleen Tomlinson; Fernandez and Carlos Soto will be arraigned this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge William D. Wall; and Figat will be arraigned Thursday, December 27, before United States Magistrate Judge A. Kathleen Tomlinson. All arraignments will be held at the U.S. Courthouse, 100 Federal Plaza, Central Islip. Rodriguez and Cabrera remain at large. The three cases have been assigned to United States District Judges Sandra J. Feuerstein, Denis R. Hurley, and Joanna Seybert, respectively.
The charges were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Toni M. Weirauch, Special Agent-in-Charge, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Randall Till, Inspector-in-Charge, New York Division, United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and Rafael Medina, Special Agent-in-Charge, United States Postal Service, Office of Inspector General (USPS OIG).
According the indictments and other court filings by the government, in each scheme the defendants exploited tax laws that exempt Puerto Rican citizens from filing federal income tax returns provided they derive their incomes solely from sources within the Commonwealth. The defendants, and coconspirators, illegally obtained identification information for Puerto Rican citizens, including names, dates of birth, and social security numbers, and used that information to file false returns claiming large refunds with the IRS. Once filed, the defendants, and their coconspirators, allegedly bribed Postal Service employees to intercept mailed tax refund checks, which the defendants then negotiated at check-cashing services. The schemes were uncovered in part by federal agents working in an undercover capacity. The three cases announced today involved the filing of more than 11,000 false income tax returns.
United States v. Luis Aquino and Johans Cabrera, 12-CR-769 (DRH)
Between January 2011 and September 2011, Aquino, Cabrera, and their coconspirators allegedly filed more than 5,000 fraudulent tax returns seeking tax refunds of approximately $34.5 million. Many of the checks in this scheme were sent to addresses in Copiague, New York, and various other addresses in the tri-State area. Aquino and Cabrera allegedly paid an individual, whom they believed operated a check cashing service but who was in fact an undercover law enforcement agent, to cash several of these checks. If convicted, defendants each face a maximum sentence of 42 years’ imprisonment.
United States v. Randy Fernandez, Ancelmo Rodriguez and Carlos Soto, 12-CR-654 (JS)
Between August 2011 and June 2012, Fernandez, Rodriguez, Soto, and their coconspirators allegedly filed approximately 2,500 fraudulent tax returns seeking tax refunds of approximately $12 million. Many of the checks in this scheme were sent to addresses in Copiague, Lindenhurst, Brentwood, Amityville, Central Islip, and Wyandanch, New York. Fernandez, Rodriguez, and Soto are charged with bribing an employee of a check cashing service to cash several of the refund checks. If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of 25 years’ imprisonment.
United States v. Michael Figat, 12-CR-308 (S-1)(SJF)
Between January 2011 and April 2012, Figat and his coconspirators allegedly filed approximately 3,700 fraudulent tax returns seeking tax refunds of approximately $26.5 million. Many of the checks in this scheme were sent to addresses in Shirley, Patchogue, Lindenhurst, and West Babylon, New York. As detailed in the indictment and court filings, Figat bribed several USPS employees to remove tax refund checks from the mail and also went to various individuals’ homes on Long Island and removed tax refund checks from their mail boxes. If convicted, Figat faces a maximum sentence of 107 years’ imprisonment.
“As alleged, the defendants’ cottage industry acted, check by check and dollar by dollar, to steal the identities of over ten thousand unsuspecting individuals as well as to defraud the federal government out of tens of millions of dollars,” stated U.S. Attorney Lynch. “Today’s arrests should make clear that those who prey on their fellow Americans and seek to steal from the public fisc will be met with the coordinated and comprehensive efforts of law enforcement.”
IRS Special Agent-in-Charge Weirauch stated, “IRS Criminal Investigation has made investigating identity theft-related refund fraud a top priority. The IRS is vigilant in the investigation of these schemes, and we will continue to work with prosecutors and our law enforcement partners to identify the perpetrators and those individuals who assist them.”
USPIS Inspector-in-Charge Till stated, “The alleged crime involved the use of victims’ personal information as well as the Americans’ tax dollars. This investigations illuminates the efforts of the Postal Inspectors, other agencies, and the United States Attorney’s Office to ensure personal identifications and the taxes collected from a fellow citizens are protected against fraud.”
USPS OIG Special Agent-in-Charge Medina stated, “The integrity of a federal employee cannot be bought or sold. Our office aggressively investigates allegations of public corruption, and any postal employee who misuse their position of trust for personal gain should understand that the they will be arrested.”
The government’s cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Caffarone.
LUIS AQUINO (a/k/a “The Doctor”)
JOHANS CABRERA (a/k/a “Life”)
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