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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, August 7, 2015

Boynton Beach Resident Pleads Guilty to Participating in an Identity Theft Tax Refund Fraud Scheme

A Boynton Beach resident pled guilty to possessing heroin and participating in an identity theft tax refund fraud scheme.

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Kelly R. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Neil Melofchik, Acting Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service (USSS), Miami Field Office, Rafiq Ahmad, Special Agent in Charge, United States Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations Miami Office (DOL-OIG), and Ric Bradshaw, Sheriff, Palm Beach County Sherriff’s Office (PBSO), made the announcement.

Christopher Richard Edwards, 25, of Boynton Beach, pled guilty today to possession with intent to distribute heroin, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 841(a)(1), access device fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1029(a)(3), aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A(a)(1), and making a material false statement by filing a false tax return with the Internal Revenue Service, in violation of 18, United States Code, Section 287.   At sentencing, the defendant faces a maximum of twenty years of imprisonment for the possession with intent to distribute heroin charge, a maximum of ten years for the access device charge, a mandatory term of two years in prison, consecutive to any other term of imprisonment, for the aggravated identity theft charge, and a maximum of five years imprisonment for making a false statement by filing a false tax return with the IRS.

According to the superseding information and additional court documents, a search warrant was executed at Edwards’ apartment after the defendant’s probation officer conducted a welfare check and discovered narcotics and indicia of identity theft in plain view.  During the search warrant, law enforcement found approximately 159 unauthorized access devices (debit cards) in other peoples’ names, three laptop computers, an encoder/decoder, a credit card embosser, a currency counter machine, several ledgers containing personal identification information (PII), 66 capsules containing heroin, a digital scale, and a plate containing heroin residue.

A forensic examination of the access device cards revealed that they contained unauthorized unemployment benefits.  An examination of Edwards’ computer revealed fraudulent filings for unemployment benefits, consistent with the unemployment benefit cards found in his apartment.  The unemployment claims filed from Edwards’ computer in 2014 totaled $287,360.  The investigation further revealed that Edwards filed 41 tax returns containing false information, including the names of other individuals who did not authorize Edwards to use file with their PII.  Edwards claimed a total of $299,240 in false tax refunds.

The total amount of loss attributable to Edwards’ fraudulent scheme is $586,600 and the number of victims exceeds 250.

Edwards is scheduled to be sentenced on November 13, 2015 at 10:30 a.m. before United States District Judge Kenneth A. Marra.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the IRS-CI, USSS, DOL-OIG, and PBSO. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lauren E. Jorgensen.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

 

Topic(s): 
Identity Theft
Updated August 7, 2015