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Press Release

New York Man Admits Role In Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. – A Bronx, New York, man today admitted his role in an extensive scheme to obtain money through fraudulently obtained refund checks issued by the U.S. Treasury, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.          


Hector Urena pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge John Michael Vazquez in Newark federal court to an information charging him with one count each of conspiracy to steal government funds, theft of government funds, and aggravated identity theft (Count Three). 


According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:


Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF) is a common type of fraud committed against the United States government that involves the use of stolen identities to commit tax refund fraud. SIRF schemes generally share a number of hallmarks. Perpetrators obtain personal identifying information, including Social Security numbers and dates of birth, from unwitting individuals, who often reside in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. They then complete Form 1040 tax returns using the fraudulently obtained information and falsifying wages earned, taxes withheld, and other data, always ensuring that the fraudulent tax return generates a refund. They direct the U.S. Treasury Department to mail refund checks to locations that the perpetrators control or can access. With the fraudulently obtained refund checks in hand, SIRF perpetrators generate cash proceeds by depositing the checks into bank accounts that they control or cashing the checks at check cashing businesses.


The investigation revealed that Urena and others participated in a classic SIRF scheme.  Urena’s conspirators obtained stolen identities to file fraudulent Form 1040s. He and his conspirators then used false and fraudulent documents to convert treasury checks into cash or other proceeds for their own profit at a check cashing business Urena owned. From August 2013 through May 2015, the scheme caused more than $2.7 million in losses to the U.S. Treasury.


The counts of conspiracy to steal government funds is punishable by up to five years in prison. The count of theft of government funds is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison. Both counts are also punishable by a fine of up to $250,000, or twice the gain or loss caused by the offense. The count of aggravated identity theft is punishable a statutory mandatory prison sentence of two years that must be served consecutively to any term of imprisonment imposed for the violation of any other count. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 25, 2018.          


Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited special agents of the IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen; postal inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Acting Inspector in Charge Joseph W. Cronin; special agents of the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Monica Weyler; and special agents of the U.S. Secret Service, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Mark McKevitt; with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea. 


The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elaine K. Lou of the Criminal Division in Newark. 


Defense counsel: James Kousouros Esq., New York 


Updated November 8, 2017

Press Release Number: 17-415