East Bay Trio Charged in Identity Theft Scheme
OAKLAND – East Bay residents Sean Lucas Cowgill, Juanco Tango Andres, and Guadalupe Nieves, Jr., made their initial appearance on August 9, 2013, in federal court on charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, announced United States Attorney Melinda Haag and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge José M. Martinez.
According to the indictment, unsealed on August 9, 2013, from about May 27, 2011 to February 24, 2012, Sean Lucas Cowgill allegedly carried out a scheme to obtain money by filing false tax returns claiming refund payments. In order to carry out the scheme, Cowgill created an identification form (“ID-Doc”) which included questions requiring personal information, such as name, income, birthday, Social Security number, number of dependents, expenses, and type of work.
Cowgill trained and used recruiters to convince people to complete the ID-Doc form in order to determine if they were eligible for a stimulus program sponsored by President Obama. Cowgill used the completed ID-Doc forms to prepare and electronically file false federal individual income tax returns, claiming fraudulent tax credits and refunds. Cowgill directed the refunds to be paid in a manner that enabled him to exercise control over the refunds. Cowgill paid recruiters $50 to $100 for each completed ID-Doc form that resulted in a tax refund.
According to the indictment, from about September 17, 2011 to about February 24, 2012, Cowgill taught Juanco Tango Andres and Guadalupe Nieves, Jr. to use information from ID-Doc forms to prepare false federal income tax returns claiming tax credits and refunds. Andres and Nieves allegedly followed Cowgill’s scheme, training and using recruiters to convince people to complete the ID-Doc form. Andres and Nieves paid Cowgill a $50 “franchise fee” for each tax refund.
All three defendants were indicted on July 23, 2013. Cowgill was charged with 13 counts of wire fraud and three counts of aggravated identity theft. Andres was charged with 10 counts of wire fraud and eight counts of aggravated identity theft. Nieves was charged with 10 counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
The maximum statutory penalty for each count of wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, U.S.C § 1343, is 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The maximum penalty for aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, U.S.C § 1028A, is two years in prison, consecutive to the underlying felony and a fine of $250,000.
Thomas Moore is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting this case. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation.