California Man Sentenced to Prison for Stealing Prisoner Identities and Filing Fraudulent Tax Returns
Caused Loss of More than $600,000
A San Francisco man was sentenced to serve 84 months in prison yesterday for stealing identities and conspiring to file fraudulent tax returns, announced Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg, of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Brian J. Stretch for the Northern District of California.
In January, at the conclusion of a two-week trial, a federal jury in the Northern District of California convicted Howard Webber, 52, of conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud, mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft. According to the evidence presented at trial, from June 2010 through January 2012, Webber conspired with Clifford Bercovich to obtain the names and social security numbers of fellow inmates while Webber was incarcerated at several prisons and jails, including San Quentin State Prison and Santa Clara County jail in California, and the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Webber and Bercovich convinced inmates to give them their names and social security numbers by explaining that they could help the inmates take advantage of government stimulus programs or secret tax loopholes. Webber and Bercovich recruited inmates to help them solicit the identities of other inmates, and created a limited-liability company, Inmate Assets Recovery and Liquidation Services LLC, to make their scheme appear legitimate.
Webber and Bercovich used the identities they obtained to file false federal income tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The returns falsely represented that the individuals earned wages or other income and fraudulently claimed refunds. Webber and Bercovich opened a post office box, which they listed on each false return and used to receive the fraudulently obtained refund checks. In some cases, they also directed that refunds be wired to bank accounts, which they opened and controlled. According to the evidence presented at trial, Webber and Bercovich filed more than 700 false returns and received over $600,000 in fraudulently obtained income tax refunds.
In addition to the term of prison imposed, Webber was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release.
Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg and U.S. Attorney Stretch thanked special agents of IRS–Criminal Investigation, who conducted the investigation, and Assistant U.S. Attorney William Frentzen and Trial Attorneys Gregory Bernstein and Arthur J. Ewenczyk of the Tax Division, who prosecuted the case.
Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found on the division’s website.