Long Island Resident Sentenced To 78 Months In Prison For Using Stolen Social Security Numbers To File Thousands Of False Tax Returns
Scheme Nets Defendant And Coconspirators More Than $16 Million In U.S. Treasury Checks
Earlier today, Michael Figat was sentenced to 78 months’ imprisonment by United States District Judge Sandra J. Feuerstein in District Court in Central Islip, New York, for participating in a scheme to defraud the United States. As part of that sentence, the court also sentenced Figat to 3 years of supervised release and ordered him to forfeit $250,000. Restitution remains to be determined.
The sentence was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Shantelle P. Kitchen, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS), New York; Farrell Dolan, Resident Agent-in-Charge, United States Secret Service (USSS), Long Island Resident Office; Philip R. Bartlett, Inspector-in-Charge, United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), New York Division; and Rafael Medina, Special Agent-in-Charge, USPIS, Office of Inspector General (USPIS OIG), Northeast Area Field Office.
“Figat and his coconspirators stole the personal information of thousands of unsuspecting Puerto Rican citizens to enrich themselves at the expense of the United States and the tax-paying public,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “We are committed to prosecuting those who take advantage of the federal tax system for personal profit. I want to commend my law enforcement partners for their outstanding efforts in leading this investigation.”
Natural born residents of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico are, upon birth, automatically granted United States citizenship and are issued United States Social Security numbers upon application. Figat exploited tax laws that exempt Puerto Rican citizens from filing federal income tax returns provided they derive their incomes solely from sources within Puerto Rico. The defendant and his coconspirators illegally obtained identification information for Puerto Rican citizens, including names, dates of birth, and social security numbers. Then, between January 2011 and April 2012, they used that information to file thousands of fraudulent tax returns and obtained more than $16,000,000 in United States Treasury refund checks. As part of the scheme, Figat and his coconspirators bribed Postal Service employees to intercept tax refund checks from the mail. They also removed tax refund checks from the addressees’ mail boxes. Many of the checks in this scheme were sent to addresses in Shirley, Patchogue, Lindenhurst, and West Babylon, New York. The schemes were uncovered, in part, by a law enforcement officer working in an undercover capacity.
Today’s announcement is part of an on-going effort by the Identity Theft Task Force (ITTF), which the IRS created in mid-2012, to address the growing issue of identity theft in New York. The ITTF combines the resources of several agencies to investigate identity theft,including investigating the use of stolen identities to file fraudulent tax returns. The agencies currently participating in the ITTF include the IRS; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; USSS; USPIS; New York City Police Department; Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Department of State; Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Inspector General; Federal Reserve Board, Office of Inspector General; USPIS OIG; Homeland Security Investigations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General; Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, Department of Treasury, Office of Inspector General; and Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General.
The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney
Shirley, New York