Additional Federal Charges Brought in Nationwide Identity Theft and IRS Tax Refund Scheme
Conspirators obtain identity information of 250,000 taxpayers and submit alleged false federal income tax returns seeking $25 million in refunds from IRS
MEDFORD, Ore. - Federal law enforcement agents arrested Michael Oluwasegun Kazeem, 22, in Georgia based on an Oregon federal grand jury indictment unsealed today. Kazeem, a resident of both Nigeria and Atlanta, Georgia, is charged with mail fraud, aggravated identity theft and conspiring to commit mail fraud with his brother, Emmanuel Oluwatosin Kazeem, 32, of Bowie, Maryland, and Oluwamuyiwa Abolad Olawoye, 29, of Marietta, Georgia.
Michael Kazeem made an initial appearance in Georgia and will be arraigned in the District of Oregon at a date to be set by the Court.
The indictment alleges that, beginning at least as early as tax year 2012, Michael Kazeem, along with his brother and Olawoye and others, engaged in an identity theft conspiracy, in Oregon and elsewhere, involving a scheme to obtain millions of dollars in fraudulent tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service. The allegations of the indictment detail how Michael Kazeem and his co-conspirators carried out a complex fraudulent scheme involving the use of stolen personal identifying information (PII), falsified wage and withholding information, fraudulently generated electronic filing PINs, disposable email addresses to conceal the co-conspirators’ identities, and the receipt of fraudulent tax refunds through prepaid debit cards. In addition, it describes for the first time allegations brought involving the unauthorized access into the IRS system to obtain taxpayer transcript information. Specifically, Michael Kazeem and his co-conspirators used stolen PII for unauthorized online access to obtain over 1,200 taxpayer transcripts through the IRS “Get Transcript” application process, which was discontinued by the IRS in May 2015. Both Emmanuel Kazeem and Olawoye were previously charged in the District of Oregon, along with Lateef Aina Animawun, 35, Oluwatobi Rueben Dehinbo, 30, and Oluwaseunara Temitope Osanyinbi, 35, with obtaining stolen personal identifying information of taxpayers and submitting false federal tax returns.
“Pursuing those involved in identity theft remains one of our highest priorities,” said U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams. “Oregonians, as well as others, have been continually victimized by those who unlawfully obtain personal identifying information. It is used to commit fraud, including tax refund fraud, inflicting chaos in the lives of innocent taxpayers long afterward. The U.S. Attorney’s office will continue to pursue those involved in this type of illegal activity and they will be held fully accountable.”
In total, Michael Kazeem and his co-conspirators are alleged to have unlawfully obtained the PII of over 250,000 taxpayers and filed over 2,900 false federal tax returns seeking over $25 million in fraudulent refunds. Although the IRS rejected millions of dollars of fraudulently claimed refunds, the indictment alleges that the defendants successfully obtained $4.7 million in illegal refunds.
“The Federal Trade Commission reported recently that Oregon jumped to third in the nation for reported incidences of identity theft. We know that tax refund fraud cases are a major contributor of the increase of reported identity theft,” stated Special Agent in Charge Teri Alexander of IRS Criminal Investigation. “The arrest of Michael Kazeem is a firm indication of the determined efforts of IRS CI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to reverse that trend here in Oregon and to provide some relief to the victims of this incredibly invasive crime.”
The indictment, which may be viewed here, charges Michael Kazeem with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, seven counts of mail fraud and seven counts of aggravated identity theft. The fraud and conspiracy charges are each punishable by up to 30 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $1 million. If convicted of the aggravated identity theft charges, there is a mandatory minimum penalty of two years in federal prison for each count of conviction. An indictment is only an allegation of a crime and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case results from a joint investigation by IRS-Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with support provided by the Department of Treasury, Inspector General for Tax Administration, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. State Department, Homeland Security Investigations, Medford, Oregon, U.S. Citizenship Immigration Services, Atlanta, Georgia and the Atlanta Police Department. This case is being prosecuted by District of Oregon Assistant U.S. Attorneys Byron Chatfield and Nancy Olson.
Taxpayers are reminded to be vigilant in the protection of their personal identifying information. Anyone interested in more information on preventing or reporting suspected identity theft should review the Internal Revenue Service’s website at http://www.irs.gov/uac/Taxpayer-Guide-to-Identity-Theft.