Tampa Man Pleads Guilty During Jury Selection In Stolen Identity Refund Case
Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces that James Lee Cobb, III has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, five counts of wire fraud, five counts of aggravated identity theft, and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm as an Armed Career Criminal. Cobb faces a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison for each of the conspiracy and wire fraud charges, 2 years for each aggravated identity theft charge, and a minimum mandatory of 15 years, up to life, in federal prison on the firearm charge. Sentencing is scheduled for February 27, 2015.
According to court testimony, Cobb conspired with others to use more than 7,000 stolen names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers to file false tax returns and open pre-paid debit cards. He also obtained “burner” phones using stolen identities. From an unknown date in 2011, and continuing through November 2013, Cobb and his co-conspirators filed false tax returns claiming approximately $3 million in refunds.
During the execution of a search warrant at Cobb’s residence, law enforcement officers recovered lists and medical records containing the personal identifying information of more than 7,000 victims. Many of the victims had their identities stolen from healthcare facilities, including from the James A. Haley VA hospital; the Florida Hospital (formerly known as University Community Hospital); ambulance services in Virginia, Georgia, and Texas; a local medical billing company; and court records. In addition, a number of deceased victims’ names were obtained from a genealogy website.
Officers also found two guns in the residence – a loaded handgun and an AR-15-style rifle with a fully-loaded 30-round magazine. At the time of this offense, Cobb was on supervised release from a prior federal firearm conviction.
This case was investigated by the Tampa Police Department, the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Inspector General, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and members of the Tampa Bay Identity Theft Alliance, including the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Thomas N. Palermo and U.S Department of Justice Trial Attorney Timothy P. Loper of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.