Belarusian National Pleads Guilty to International Online Scheme to Steal U.S. Tax Refunds
WASHINGTON – A Belarusian national and resident of Nantucket, Mass., pleaded guilty today to charges stemming from his participation in an international online scheme to steal income tax refunds from U.S. taxpayers around the country, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz of the District of Massachusetts.
Mikalai Mardakhayeu, 31, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. in the District of Massachusetts, to one count of conspiracy and nine counts of wire fraud.
According to court records, from 2006 through 2007, Mardakhayeu’s co-conspirators lured victims by operating websites that falsely claimed to be authorized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to offer lower-income taxpayers free online tax return preparation and electronic tax return filing (e-filing). After taxpayers input and uploaded their tax information, co-conspirators in Belarus collected the data and altered the returns to increase the refund amounts and to direct the refunds to U.S. bank accounts controlled by Mardakhayeu. They then caused the fraudulently altered returns to be e-filed with the IRS. The conspirators ultimately caused the U.S. Treasury and various state treasury departments to deposit more than $200,000 in stolen refunds into bank accounts controlled by Mardakhayeu.
Sentencing is scheduled for April 26, 2011. Mardakhayeu faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, a $250,000 fine, forfeiture and restitution on each of the nine wire fraud counts. On the conspiracy count, he faces an additional five years in prison.
The case was investigated by the IRS Criminal Investigation Division and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Bookbinder of the District of Massachusetts’s Computer Crimes Unit and by Trial Attorney Mona Sedky of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section.