Two Honduran Citizens Indicted For False Statements, Identity Theft, And Conspiracy To Defraud The Internal Revenue Service Of Payroll Taxes
Jacksonville, Florida – A federal grand jury has returned a superseding indictment charging Fanny Melina Zelaya-Mendez (39, Jacksonville) with making false statements to a federal agent, aggravated identity theft, and three counts of conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of federal payroll taxes, specifically, Social Security tax, Medicare tax, and income tax. Roger Omar Zelaya-Mendez (34, Jacksonville) has been charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the IRS. These charges are in addition to previously filed charges. Specifically, on May 2, 2018, Fanny Melina Zelaya-Mendez was charged with three counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and Roger Omar Zelaya-Mendez was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of illegally re-entering the United States after a prior deportation. The newly-filed false statements and tax fraud charges each carry a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison, and the aggravated identity theft charge carries a mandatory prison sentence of two years that must be served consecutively to any other sentence. Fanny Melina and Roger Omar Zelaya-Mendez are Honduran citizens who are illegally present in the United States.
The indictment also notifies the defendants that the United States intends to seek forfeiture of $1,033,485, the approximate amount of proceeds obtained as a result of the wire fraud offenses, and an additional $399,575 of seized funds, and two seized vehicles – a 2014 Dodge Ram pick-up and a 2012 GMC Yukon Denali.
The indictment alleges a fraudulent scheme in which construction contractors entered into agreements with shell companies, established by Fanny Melina and Roger Omar Zelaya-Mendez, that arranged for work crews, mostly made up of undocumented aliens, to work on the contractors’ projects. The contractors wrote payroll checks to the shell companies for the work performed by the workers. Fanny Melina and Roger Omar Zelaya-Mendez then cashed the checks, kept 4% as a fee, and distributed the remaining cash to work crew leaders, who then paid the workers. By obtaining and paying the workers through the shell companies, the contractors could disclaim responsibility for ensuring that the workers were legally authorized to work in the United States, that adequate workers’ compensation insurance was provided, and that required payroll taxes were paid.
During the period of the scheme, a total of approximately $25,837,141 of payroll funds passed through the shell companies. Neither the defendants nor the contractors remitted payroll taxes to the IRS. According to the IRS, the estimated amount of payroll taxes due on the total wages is approximately $6.5 million.
When Fanny Melina Zelaya-Mendez was arrested on May 4, 2018, she gave a false name to an immigration officer and claimed to be a U.S. citizen who had been born in Puerto Rico. She also presented a valid Florida Identification Card which she had obtained in the false name. Subsequent investigation revealed that the identity that she had adopted was for a real U.S. citizen who was born in Puerto Rico and that Fanny Melina Zelaya-Mendez had obtained the Florida ID card using a genuine Puerto Rico birth certificate and a genuine Social Security card.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of the federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Arnold B. Corsmeier.