Florida Man Admits Role In $65 Million Stolen Identity Income Tax Refund Scheme
NEWARK, N.J. – A Miami man today admitted that he was responsible for depositing over $4.7 million in fraudulently obtained tax refund checks as part of a massive stolen identity income tax scheme, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Roberto Diaz, 47, formerly of Demarest, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi in Newark federal court to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit theft of government funds, one count of theft of government funds, and one count of aggravated identity theft.
According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court:
Members of the conspiracy obtained personal identifiers, such as dates of birth and Social Security numbers, belonging to Puerto Rican citizens. Afterwards, they completed Individual Income Tax Return 1040 Forms using the fraudulently obtained information and made it appear that the “taxpayers” listed on the fraudulent returns were entitled to refunds. They also directed the U.S. Treasury Department to issue refunds to locations they could control or access in various ways.
At his plea hearing, Diaz admitted that he received fraudulently obtained refund checks and deposited them into banks accounts he controlled or were in the names of his associates or their companies. Diaz also admitted that he and others conspired to bribe a mail carrier to intercept refund checks before they were delivered to the people who had their identity stolen as part of the scheme.
Diaz admitted that during the course of the conspiracy, he was responsible for depositing or causing the deposit of over $4.7 million in fraudulently obtained tax refund checks.
Diaz is facing potential penalties of five years in prison for the conspiracy charge and 10 years in prison for the theft of government funds charge, both of which are also punishable by a $250,000 fine or twice the gain or loss resulting from the offense. For the aggravated identity theft charge, Diaz is facing a mandatory two years in prison which must run consecutive to any other term imposed. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 27, 2017.
Diaz was previously charged in September 2012 along with 13 other defendants in multiple, separate criminal complaints. The $65 million scheme involved more than 8,000 fraudulent income tax returns and losses to the United States of over $12 million.
By tracing the specific IP addresses from which the returns were submitted, law enforcement officers identified that only a handful of IP addresses were responsible for filing the fraudulent returns. During the course of the investigation, law enforcement identified certain “hot spots” of activity and intercepted more than $22 million in fraudulently claimed refunds before they were delivered to members of the conspiracy.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Acting Inspector in Charge Cynthia Shoffner; the U.S. Secret Service, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Mark Mckevitt; the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Carl J. Kotowski, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Terence S. Opiola, with the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mala Ahuja Harker of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division, and Zach Intrater, Deputy Chief of the Economic Crimes Unit.
Defense counsel: Paul Brickfield, River Edge, New Jersey