IRS Impersonator Scam Leader Sentenced to 135 Months in Prison After Stealing Millions of Dollars; Co-Conspirators Also Imprisoned
LITTLE ROCK—Cody Hiland, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Gary Smith, Special-Agent-in-Charge, Southern Field Division, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), and Robert G. Feldt, Special-Agent-in-Charge, Social Security Administration (SSA), Dallas Field Division, announced today the sentencing of five defendants involved in an IRS impersonation scheme that netted millions of dollars from unsuspecting victims.
On Thursday, United States District Judge Billy Roy Wilson sentenced Yosvany Padilla, 27, of Hialeah, Fla., the leader of the conspiracy, to 135 months’ imprisonment, followed by two years of supervised release, and ordered the repayment of nearly $9 million in restitution. Padilla, in addition to personally collecting threat-induced wire transfers sent by victims believing they were paying owed taxes, supplied co-conspirators with false identification documents and coordinated the collection of wire transfers by other members of the conspiracy.
Also on Thursday, Judge Wilson sentenced Jeniffer Valerino Nuñez, 22, and Esequiel Bravo Diaz, 24, both from Miami, to federal prison. Nuñez, who collected more than $1.3 million in wire transfers from more than 1,050 victims, was sentenced to 47 months’ imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, and repayment of nearly $2.5 million in restitution. Diaz, who collected approximately $115,000 from 350 victims, was sentenced to 47 months’ imprisonment, followed by two years’ supervised release, and repayment of nearly $115,000 in restitution.
“These criminals stole millions of dollars from thousands of innocent people, using fear, threats, and intimidation to carry out this scam,” Hiland said. “This criminal behavior is unconscionable and will not be tolerated. The prison sentences handed down today represent some measure of accountability for IRS imposters who violated the most vulnerable among us, including honest citizens here in Arkansas. Our office will continue to remain vigilant in working with our law enforcement partners to root out these schemes, and punish those responsible to the fullest extent of the law.”
In the scheme, individuals purporting to be employees of the IRS would call and threaten victims with legal action, arrest, and imprisonment for a supposed debt owed to the IRS. The callers made these threats and used other methods of intimidation to persuade the victims to wire money utilizing MoneyGram, Walmart-2-Walmart Money Transfer, and other wire-transfer services. Investigators have identified 6,282 nationwide victims for a total loss currently calculated at $10,735,762.61. Multiple fraudulent wire transfers were collected in Arkansas, as well as in at least 28 other states.
“Over the last several years, American taxpayers have been subjected to unprecedented attempts to fraudulently obtain money by individuals impersonating Internal Revenue Service employees,” TIGTA SAC Smith said. “Victimizing taxpayers by impersonating IRS employees is a serious crime. TIGTA and our law enforcement partners will do everything within our power to ensure that those involved in the impersonation of IRS employees are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Today’s significant sentencings should serve notice to those who engage in this type of criminal activity that they will be held accountable.”
Another of the scheme’s co-conspirators, Dennis Delgado Caballero, 40, of Miami, collected more than $1.1 million in wire transfers from 950 different victims and recruited others into the scheme. On September 27, 2018, Judge Wilson sentenced Caballero to 72 months’ imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, and repayment of approximately $2.5 million in restitution.
Angel Carrillo, 43, of Hialeah, Fla., collected more than $1.3 million in wire transfers from more than 750 people. On Tuesday, Judge Wilson sentenced Carrillo to 72 months’ imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, and repayment of the $1.3 million as restitution.
“The Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General (SSA-OIG) is committed to closely working with our law enforcement partners to pursue identity thieves who deceive and defraud American taxpayers,” SSA SAC Feldt said.
Three other defendants (Elio Carballo Cruz, Alejandro Valdes, and Alfredo Echevarria Rios) have pleaded guilty to the scheme and await sentencing, while one (Ricardo Fontanella Caballero) is set for trial on December 11, 2018.
Investigators verified the identity of the suspects and their activities through a variety of investigative methods. TIGTA and the SSA-OIG led the investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Hunter Bridges and Jana Harris.
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