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Press Release

Two Northeast Pennsylvania Check Cashers Charged In Separate Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Schemes

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Pennsylvania

SCRANTON – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that two northeast Pennsylvania check cashers have been charged as a result of their participation in separate stolen identity refund fraud schemes. 

Jose Cabreja, age 30, of Scranton, and Franklyn Nunez, age 40, of Hazleton, were charged in one-count criminal informations filed today in federal court in Scranton with conspiracy to make false claims against the government. 

According to United States Attorney Peter Smith, the Cabreja Information charges that Cabreja operated Frank Check Casher, Inc. in Olyphant, and that his co-conspirators used the identities of unknowing third parties to prepare and file fraudulent federal income tax returns.  The Information alleges that Cabreja deposited and cashed fraudulently obtained tax refund checks totaling $876,731 between June and August 2013. 

The Nunez Information charges that he operated The Closet Multi-Service, LLC in Hazleton, and alleges that co-conspirators of Nunez used the identities of unknowing third parties to prepare and file fraudulent federal income tax returns.  The Information also alleges that Nunez deposited and cashed fraudulently obtained tax refund checks totaling $358,525 between June and September 2011.

The government also filed a plea agreement in each case which is subject to approval by the court.

According to United States Attorney Smith, the prosecution of fraudulent tax refund schemes that rob tax payers as well as the government is a high priority in this district.

The Department of Justice views the prosecution of Stolen Identity Refund Fraud, or “SIRF,” as vital. These schemes disrupt the orderly administration of the income tax system for hundreds of thousands of law abiding taxpayers nationwide and have cost the United States Treasury billions of dollars. SIRF crimes are often perpetrated by criminal enterprises with key individuals at all stages of the scheme: those who steal Social Security Numbers and other personal identifying information, those who file false returns with the Internal Revenue Service, those, including check cashers, who facilitate obtaining the refunds, and those who promote the schemes. These criminal enterprises exploit the highly automated systems for storing personal information, preparing and filing tax returns electronically, and generating income tax refunds quickly—often in the form of electronic payments.  Everyone with a Social Security Number is potentially vulnerable to having his or her identity stolen.  The IRS estimates that during the 2013 filing season alone, over 5 million tax returns were filed using stolen identities, claiming approximately $30 billion in refunds. 

The charges in the present cases are the result of ongoing investigations by the Scranton Office of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, with assistance from the Pennsylvania State Police, the Hazelton, Taylor, Dickson City, Dunmore and Olyphant Police Departments, and the Lackawanna and Luzerne County District Attorneys’ Offices.  The cases are assigned to Assistant United States Attorney William Houser for prosecution.

Criminal Informations are only allegations. All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.

A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

The maximum penalty under federal law is 10 years of imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant's educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.


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Updated February 3, 2016

Identity Theft