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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Rhode Island

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, September 4, 2014

Second Defendant Pleads Guilty In Identity Theft, $1.8 Million Dollar Fraudulent Tax Return Scheme






PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Richard Lara, 22, of Providence, R.I., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Providence yesterday to participating in a scheme in which personal identifying information of more than 1,200 individuals was stolen, many of which were used to file fraudulent tax returns with the IRS totaling more than $1.8 million dollars. Julian Balbi, 22, of Providence, a co-defendant in this matter, pleaded guilty on June 5, 2014, to participating in the scheme with Lara.

Lara and Balbi pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated identity theft and one count each of conspiracy and theft of government property.  The guilty pleas are announced by United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha; Colonel Steven G. O’DonnellSuperintendent of the Rhode Island State Police; William P. Offord, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation; and Ted A. Arruda, Resident Agent in Charge of the Providence Office of the U.S. Secret Service.

According to court records and information presented to the court, Lara and Balbi were arrested by Rhode Island State Police on January 2, 2012, on an unrelated matter during a routine traffic stop. During a court authorized search of the vehicle which was owned by Julian Balbi, State Police discovered 87 U.S. Treasury checks made out to third parties totaling $596,646.46. The investigation revealed that the checks were generated by the submission of fraudulent tax returns. Also seized were several ledgers and notebooks containing personal identifying information, including Social Security numbers and dates of birth, of hundreds of individuals; ledgers containing employer information such as Employee Identification Numbers and addresses; and a USB flash drive containing numerous spreadsheets detailing taxpayer information and fraudulent tax returns that had been filed with the IRS.

According to information presented to the court, Rhode Island State Police executed a court authorized search of Balbi’s Providence residence where they seized numerous computers and USB flash drives. A forensic examination of the computers and flash drives revealed numerous spreadsheets containing ledgers identical to those on the flash drives seized from the vehicle. A court authorized search of Lara’s residence resulted in the seizure of another ledger which allegedly contained personal identity information which matched information contained on the flash drive seized from Balbi’s vehicle.

According to information presented to the court, IRS and U.S. Secret Service agents interviewed 17 individuals listed as payees on the treasury checks seized from Balbi’s vehicle. All 17 stated they did not file the tax return in question and that they did not know Balbi or Lara. The IRS conducted an analysis of all of the information associated with the 1,258 individuals listed on the various ledgers and computers seized from Balbi and Lara. The investigation revealed that between April 2011 and January 2012, 823 fraudulent tax returns seeking refunds totaling $1,854,438.46 were filed with the IRS.

Julian Balbi is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Mary M. Lisi on September 18, 2014. Richard Lara is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Mary M. Lisi on December 4, 2014.

Conspiracy to commit a crime against the U.S. Government is punishable by statutory penalties of up to 5 years in federal prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and a term of supervised release of up to 3 years. Theft of government property (treasury checks) is punishable by statutory penalties of up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Aggravated identity theft is punishable by statutory mandatory sentence of 2 years imprisonment, to be served consecutive to the sentence imposed for theft of government property, and a fine of $250,000.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. McAdams.

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Updated June 22, 2015