Chester Springs Couple Get Prison Time For Operating Tax Refund Scam Involving Stolen Hospital Patient Information
PHILADELPHIA – Yanira Lopez, 29, was sentenced today to 48 months in prison for a tax fraud and identity theft scheme in which she and her husband, Rafael Henriquez Polanco, sought more than $1.7 million in fraudulent tax refunds. Polanco, 32, was sentenced on February 17, 2015 to 51 months in prison for numerous fraud and narcotics offenses. In addition to the prison terms, U.S. District Court Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg ordered three years of supervised release for each defendant, restitution totaling $447,299 for Lopez and $409,779 for Polanco, and special assessments of $500 and $600, respectively.
Lopez and Polanco both pleaded guilty to tax fraud, passport fraud, aggravated identity theft, and presentation of an immigration application containing a false statement. Additionally, Polanco pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine and possession with intent to distribute 28 grams or more of cocaine base, and Lopez pleaded guilty to wire fraud. Polanco is an illegal alien from the Dominican Republic, and, prior to his arrest in 2012, he and Lopez resided together in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania.
“These individuals demonstrated a blatant disregard of the integrity of the United States tax system and caused immeasurable hardship to innocent victims,” said Special Agent-In-Charge Akeia Conner, IRS Criminal Investigation, Philadelphia Field Office. “IRS Criminal Investigation, along with our law enforcement partners and the United States Attorney's Office, remain committed to the pursuit of identity theft. We will hold those who engage in similar conduct accountable.”
Between January 2008 and September 2011, Polanco and Lopez obtained the names, dates of birth, and social security numbers of patients of Community Hospital in Chester, Pennsylvania and Crozer‑Chester Medical Center in Upland, Pennsylvania, by paying employees of the hospitals to steal confidential medical forms. Polanco and Lopez then utilized the stolen identities to file fraudulent individual income tax returns with the IRS claiming fraudulent refunds. In support of the false returns, the defendants submitted phony Forms W-2 (Wage and Tax Statement) and listed one of several return addresses in Chester, Pennsylvania, or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which addresses the defendants controlled. Polanco and Lopez opened several bank accounts, and paid others to open bank accounts, using false identities for the purpose of depositing the fraudulently procured tax refund checks. Lopez, a former bank teller, utilized her knowledge of bank procedures to further this aspect of the scheme. Between February 23, 2009 and September 16, 2011, the defendants caused the United States Department of the Treasury to issue federal tax refund checks totaling $257,710.79.
Between October 26, 2008 and May 18, 2010, Lopez devised a scheme to fraudulently obtain unemployment benefits from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In furtherance of this scheme, Lopez represented to the Commonwealth that she was unemployed, when in fact she was employed full-time at Brandywine Maintenance, Inc., in Spring City, Pennsylvania, where she worked under the alias "Leslie Serrano."
The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service, the Department of Labor, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kevin Brenner and Maureen McCartney.