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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Florida

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Serial Fraudster Sentenced To More Than 12 Years In Federal Prison

Tampa, Florida – U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew sentenced Latasha Callens (35) yesterday to 12 years and 5 months in federal prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release, for bank fraud, access device fraud, mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft.  As part of her sentence, the court also entered a money judgment in the amount of $223,798, the proceeds of the charged criminal conduct.  Callens pleaded guilty on December 3, 2013.

According to court documents and statements made in court, Callens committed crimes from at least as early as July 2011 through her arrest in May 2013.  Callens defrauded banks and individuals on at least 58 occasions during a two-year period. 

In one of her schemes, Callens approached individuals, usually at ATMs, and told them about her need to cash a check and her inability to deposit the check into her bank account.  She then convinced the individuals to deposit the checks into their own accounts and withdraw the funds for her. She sometimes gave them $100 for their trouble.  In each case, the checks were worthless.  They were generally drawn on closed accounts, because the checks and checkbooks had been stolen. 

On two occasions in December 2012, Callens committed access device fraud.  She used a stolen identity to obtain dental care at a Clearwater dental office.  She purchased $12,000 worth of dental services under the false pretense that a co-conspirator would consent to pay for the treatment.  Using a stolen credit card number provided by the co-conspirator, Callens paid for herself to receive a root canal, a bridge, an extraction, a temporary crown, a retainer, anesthesia, and other items and services.

In another scheme, Callens committed stolen identity refund fraud. For tax years 2010, 2011, and 2012, she defrauded the Internal Revenue Service and certain taxpayers by electronically filing false and fraudulent tax returns, using stolen identities and, thereby, obtaining refunds.  She sought approximately $800,000 in fraudulent tax returns.

“Through the combined, tenacious investigative efforts of several key agencies in the Tampa Bay area, this predator was finally brought to justice,” said John Joyce, Special Agent in Charge of United States Secret Service’s Tampa Field Office. “Unfortunately, there are still others engaging in similar criminal behavior. Those who emulate Ms. Callens’ way of life will also eventually be apprehended and receive appropriate sentences.”

“The suspect in this case played on the sympathies of good samaritans and took advantage of their willingness to help,” said Jane Castor, Chief of the Tampa Police Department. “This sentence sends a loud and clear message that fraud of any kind is not tolerated in our city.”

"Although this was a collaborative effort of many agencies, everyone involved shared a single mission to focus on those individuals who involve themselves in tax refund fraud and identity theft. This should be a clear warning for those who engage in this type of criminal activity that the only outcome is lengthy prison terms and large monetary fines," stated Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee. 

“Stolen identity cases continue to plague our citizens and our criminal justice system,” said Clearwater Police Chief Tony Holloway. “This suspect didn’t care whose lives she impacted and from whom she stole money. She used stolen identities to make a living. She left an amazing trail of financial devastation and destruction in her wake,” Holloway added. “This sentence and accompanying money judgment send a strong and stern message to her and others like her – we will catch you, and you will pay for your crimes.”

“This case serves as an excellent example of how law-enforcement agencies from diverse jurisdictions can work together to solve crimes, protect our communities and get offenders off the street,” said Deputy Chief Bernard Seeley of the Temple Terrace Police Department.  “We’re proud to be a part of this collaborative effort.”

“Individuals such as Latasha Callens who commit identity theft and refund fraud of this magnitude deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” said James D. Robnett, Special Agent in Charge IRS Criminal Investigation.  “Callens demonstrated a blatant disregard of the integrity of the United States tax system and caused immeasurable hardship to innocent victims. IRS Criminal Investigation remains committed to the pursuit of identity theft and together with the members of the Tampa Bay Alliance, we will hold those who engage in similar conduct accountable.”

This case was investigated by the Tampa Police Department, the U.S. Secret Service, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the Temple Terrace Police Department, the Clearwater Police Department, and the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations Division. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Thomas N. Palermo.

Updated January 26, 2015