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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 8, 2018

Four Defendants Sentenced for Participating in Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Scheme

Four defendants were sentenced for their participation in a stolen identity refund fraud scheme.

Benjamin G. Greenberg, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Kelly R. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), made the announcement. 

Masoniek Stinfort, 32, of Belle Glade, was sentenced to 144 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $409,968. Eric L. Clemons, Jr., 25, formerly of Belle Glade, was sentenced to 48 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $409,968. James Craig, 29, of Orlando, FL was sentenced to 34 months in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release. Robert Nero, 30, Belle Glade, was sentenced to 27 months in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release.

Stinfort, Clemons, and Clorinda Walker, of Belle Glade previously pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and theft of government funds, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. Stinfort also pled guilty to five counts of wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343; and five counts of aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A. Clemons, Craig, Nero and Walker also pled guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. 

            According to court documents, the defendants participated in a scheme where fraudulent federal income tax returns were filed with the IRS using unauthorized personal identifying information (PII), consisting of names and social security numbers, of real persons. Stinfort recruited numerous individuals including, among others, Clemons, Walker, Nero, and Craig to open bank accounts to be used to receive the fraudulent tax refunds obtained by the submission of the false federal income tax returns. The defendants sought $1,118,000 in fraudulent refunds from the IRS, and the government sustained an actual loss of $409,968 attributable to the fraud.

Defendant Walker was employed by a medical center where she had access to the PII of individual patients.  Specifically, Walker had access to the patients’ names, respective social security numbers and respective dates of birth. A number of PII stolen from the medical center were used in the stolen identity refund fraud conspiracy. Walker was the source of some, but not all, of the stolen PII used in the conspiracy to defraud the United States. Walker is scheduled to be sentenced before U.S. District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg on Friday, February 16, 2018, at 1:30 p.m.

Defendant Makia Henderson was found not guilty at trial.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida is committed to combatting identity theft fraud schemes that compromise local and national taxpayer identities,” said U.S. Attorney Benjamin G. Greenberg.  “Prosecuting the offenders who unlawfully steal and possess the personal identification information of others in an attempt to steal our tax dollars remains a top priority for the Office and our law enforcement partners.” 

            “Tax filing season has begun, and today’s announcement should serve as a stern warning to anyone thinking about using stolen identities to file false tax returns with the IRS. IRS Criminal Investigation takes these crimes very seriously, and we will continue to work with the U.S. Attorney’s office to identify, investigate and prosecute individuals who participate in stolen identity refund fraud schemes. As a reminder, taxpayers must stay vigilant in protecting their personal identification information (PII) to help avoid being a victim of these crimes,” stated Kelly R. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).

Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI.  This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stephen Carlton.

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.

Updated February 8, 2018