Five Individuals Charged in Nationwide Identity Theft Scheme
Conspirators Obtain Identity Information of 125,000 Taxpayers and Submit Alleged False Federal Income Tax Returns Seeking $6.6 Million in Refunds from Internal Revenue Service
Federal law enforcement agents arrested four individuals in conjunction with a series of search and arrest warrants executed in Maryland and Georgia based on a federal grand jury indictment in the District of Oregon that was unsealed today.
The individuals arrested were:
Lateef Aina Animawun, 34, of Smyrna, Georgia;
Oluwatobi Rueben Dehinbo, 30, of Marietta, Georgia;
Oluwaseunara Temitope Osanyinbi, 34, of Marietta; and
Oluwamuyiwa Abolad Olawoye, 28, of Marietta.
A warrant has been issued for the arrest of a fifth defendant, Emmanuel Oluwatosin Kazeem, of Maryland. The remaining four defendants have made an initial appearance in Georgia, and will be arraigned in the District of Oregon at a date to be set by the court.
The indictment alleges that, beginning at least as early as tax year 2012, the named defendants, along with others, engaged in an identity theft conspiracy in Oregon and elsewhere that involved a scheme to obtain millions of dollars in fraudulent tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Oregon Department of Revenue. The allegations of the indictment detail how the conspirators spun a complex web of fraud involving the use of stolen personal identifying information (PII), falsified wage and withholding information, fraudulently generated electronic filing PINs, disposable email addresses to conceal the co-conspirators’ identities, and the receipt of fraudulent tax refunds through prepaid debit cards and third party bank accounts.
“Attacking identity theft is among our highest priorities,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams of the District of Oregon. “Those who unlawfully obtain personal identifying information wreak havoc on the lives of innocent taxpayers and will be held fully accountable.”
In total, the defendants are alleged to have unlawfully obtained the identity information from a data breach of over 125,000 taxpayers and filed over 980 false federal tax returns seeking over $6.6 million in fraudulent refunds. Although the IRS rejected $4.6 million of the claimed refunds, the indictment alleges that the defendants successfully obtained $2 million in illegal refunds.
“IRS Criminal Investigations Division is sworn to protect the tax system and bring to justice those who would steal from the Treasury,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Thomas Gutierrez of IRS-Criminal Investigation. “Would-be criminals should know: we’ve made identity theft related refund fraud our top priority. We understand that in these types of cases, the government is not the only victim. Identity theft can have a catastrophic emotional and financial impact on its victims. Our agents are determined to keep up the fight to eradicate identity theft and protect the honest taxpayers who would otherwise personally shoulder the immense burden of this crime.”
The indictment, which may be viewed here, charges each defendant with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, seven counts of mail fraud, six counts of wire fraud and thirteen counts of aggravated identity theft. The fraud and conspiracy charges are each punishable by up to 30 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $1 million. If convicted of the aggravated identity theft charges, the defendants face a mandatory minimum penalty of two years in federal prison for each count of conviction. An indictment is only an allegation of a crime. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case results from a joint investigation by IRS-Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General, and the FBI, with support provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. State Department and the Oregon Department of Revenue Fraud Unit. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Byron Chatfield and Nancy Olson of the District of Oregon.
Taxpayers are reminded to be vigilant in the protection of their personal identifying information. Anyone interested in more information on preventing or reporting suspected identity theft should review the IRS website.