Identity Theft Tax Fraud Strike Force Continues to Charge More Cases
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Richard Weber, Chief, IRS-Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI), and Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Miami Office, Paula Reid, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, Michael B. Steinbach, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, Antonio J. Gomez, Acting Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Miami Division, Guy Fallen, Special Agent in Charge, Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG), Kelly R. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, IRS-CI, St. Paul Field Office, Steven Steinberg, Chief, Aventura Police Department, Larry Gomer, Chief, North Miami Beach Police Department, and J.D. Patterson, Director, Miami-Dade Police Department, announced the filing of federal charges against 14 defendants in six separate cases, in which thousands of stolen identities were used to submit millions of dollars in fraudulent tax refund claims. The cases announced today reaffirm the joint federal and local commitment, first announced in October 2012, to crack down on stolen identity refund fraud (SIRF) and its perpetrators.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, Florida had the highest rate of identity theft in the United States in 2011. Florida’s rate of 178 complaints per 100,000 residents – the highest in the United States – is dwarfed by the Miami rate of 324.1 complaints per 100,000 residents. Moreover, a September 2012 report by the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) determined that Florida has the highest rate of stolen identity refund fraud in the United States. The City of Miami’s per capita number of false returns based on identity theft was 46 times the national average, and its per capita SIRF fraud dollar value was more than 70 times the national average.
On October 10, 2012, to combat the rising tide of SIRF scams, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, along with its federal and local law enforcement partners, established the South Florida Identity Theft Tax Fraud Strike Force (Strike Force). The members of the Strike Force include IRS-CI, U.S. Secret Service, FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, City of Aventura Police Department, Miami-Dade Police Department, North Miami Beach Police Department, and the SSA-OIG.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Identity theft tax refund fraud has spread through South Florida like a virus. Since the creation of the Strike Force, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has charged 113 defendants responsible for approximately $92 million in stolen identity refund fraud. We will continue to crack down on identity thieves who are lining their pockets with our tax dollars by stealing the personal identification information of others.”
“Identity theft is a serious crime that victimizes honest taxpayers and causes immense hardship,” said Richard Weber, Chief, IRS Criminal Investigation. “Today’s actions should serve as a warning that we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s office to hold accountable those individuals who undermine our income tax system by filing false claims for refunds.”
Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Paula Reid stated, “The U.S. Secret Service will continue to work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Internal Revenue Service, and our law enforcement partners in the south Florida region to combat this crime that is impacting the lives of so many innocent people. Together, we will strive to identify offenders; but, most importantly, safeguard our communities against this harsh violation that is compromising the financial status of so many hardworking, honest efforts.”
“Using stolen identities to fraudulently claim income tax refunds is a growing epidemic in Florida. In the City of Miami alone, the per capita number of false returns from identity theft was 46 times the national average,” said Michael B. Steinbach, Acting Special Agent in Charge of FBI Miami. “The FBI is actively targeting these fraudsters who seek illicit gains by victimizing hard-working taxpayers.”
Antonio J. Gomez, Acting Inspector in Charge for U.S. Postal Inspection Service stated, “The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is going to continue to collaborate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners at every level to protect the American taxpayer from this type of predatory crime and to ensure that the U.S. Postal Service is not used as a conduit for this type of criminal activity.”
Director J.D. Patterson from the Miami-Dade Police Department stated, “The continued partnership between local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies proves to be an effective measure against wide-spread crime epidemics such as; Identity theft tax refund fraud.”
The cases announced today include:
1. United States v. Nael Dawud Sammour, Case No. 13-60024-CR- Dimitrouleas
Defendant Nael Dawud Sammour was indicted on eight counts of theft of public money, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 641, and two counts of aggravated identity theft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1028A, for his role in attempting to negotiate 75 fraudulently obtained U.S. Treasury tax refund checks totaling $750,369.45. According to the charges, unknown individuals used stolen identification information, including the names, dates of birth, and social security numbers of unsuspecting taxpayers, to fraudulently apply for and receive tax refunds to which they were not entitled. Thereafter, defendant Sammour obtained many of these fraudulently obtained U.S. Treasury tax refund checks and transferred these checks, along with counterfeit driver’s licenses and Social Security cards, to undercover IRS agents posing as check cashers. When the defendant was arrested, law enforcement located and seized $30,128.24. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Anton.
2. United States v. Shalamar Major and Tanisha Wright, Case No. 13-60018-CR-Rosenbaum
Defendant Shalamar Major was indicted on one count of conspiracy to file false claims, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 286, and one count of unlawful disclosure of HIPAA-protected medical information, in violation of 42 U.S.C. 1320d-6(a)(3) and (b)(3). Co-defendant Tanisha Wright was indicted on one count of access device fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1029, one count of theft of mail, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1708, one count of conspiracy to file false claims, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 286, three counts of identity theft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1028, three counts of theft of public money, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 641, and three counts of aggravated identity theft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1028A.
According to the indictment, defendant Major was a scheduler at the Boca Raton Regional Hospital in Boca Raton, Florida. As a scheduler, Major had access to the personal identification information of Boca Raton Regional Hospital patients, including their names, dates of birth, and social security numbers. In exchange for the promise of future payments, Major provided Wright with stolen personal identifying information of numerous Boca Raton Regional Hospital patients. After receiving the stolen identification information, Wright used the information to electronically file federal income tax returns in the victims’ names and to claim tax refunds to which she was not entitled. Wright directed the IRS to direct-deposit the refunds onto pre-paid reloadable debit cards that were already in her possession. Thereafter, Wright would use the debit cards to make withdrawals at local ATMs or would use the debit cards to make purchases at various local businesses. Once Wright cashed out the fraudulently obtained refund debit cards, she split the proceeds with Major. In total, 57 returns were identified as having been fraudulently filed, seeking $306,720 in federal tax refunds.
3. United States v. Christopher and Jeffrey Rosier, Case No. 13-60020-CR-Scola
Defendant Christopher Rosier was indicted on four counts of identity theft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1028, one count of access device fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1029, one count of aggravated identity theft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1028A, and one count of conspiracy to file false claims, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 286. Codefendant Jeffrey Rosier was indicted on one count of conspiracy to file false claims, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 286.
According to the indictment, defendant Christopher Rosier obtained personal identification information of numerous individuals, including their names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers, and used this information to electronically file federal income tax returns in the victims’ names, seeking tax refunds to which he was not entitled. Defendant Christopher Rosier directed the IRS to direct-deposit the tax refunds onto pre-paid reloadable debit cards that were either already in his possession or were mailed to various local addresses that he controlled. Once the debit cards were received, defendant Jeffrey Rosier would cash the debit cards by making withdrawals at local ATMs and would split the proceeds with defendant Christopher Rosier. In total, defendant’s Rosier attempted $53,976 in fraudulent tax refunds, yet was only successfully in obtaining $36,732 in unlawful tax dollars. Additionally, law enforcement seized $8,660.00 in U.S. currency, as well as a laptop computer and a 2007 Infiniti G35 from the defendants.
4. United States v. Jahed Movlayazdanpahi, Case No. 13-20057-CR-Cooke
Defendant Jahed Movlayazdanpahi, 29, of Miramar, was charged in a three count indictment for his participation in an identity theft tax refund scheme. According to the indictment, the defendant received stolen tax refunds to which he was not entitled. The indictment charges the defendant with theft of public money and property. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John R. Byrne.
5. United States v. Fednol Pierre and Jeanson Pata, Case No. 13-60005-CR-Cohn
Two defendants were charged in 13 count indictment for their participation in an identity theft tax refund scheme. Charged in the indictment were Fednol Pierre, 34, of Miami, and Jeanson Pata, 31, of West Palm Beach. The indictment charges Pierre with theft of government money and aggravated identity theft. It also charges Pata with theft of government money or property and false statement to a federal agency. According to the indictment, Pierre used stolen personal identification information to steal six tax refund payments, totaling $52,535.87. The indictment further alleges that Pata participated in the theft of two of these payments, totaling $14,078, and made a false statement to the United States Secret Service during the investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Coats.
6. United States v. Douglas Michael Young, et al., Case No. 12-CR-20767-CR-Dimitrouleas
Last week, five defendants pled guilty in U.S. v. Douglas Michael Young, et al., Case. No. 12-CR-20767, for their involvement in a tax fraud conspiracy. On January 29, 2013, defendants Jeffrey Andre Young, Jr., 31, of Miami, and Joseph Bshara, 27, of Miami Shores, each pled guilty to one count of theft of government property and one count of aggravated identity theft. On that same date, Siham Benabdallah, 23, of Miami Shores, pled guilty to one count of theft of government property. Jeffrey Andre Young, Jr., Joseph Bshara, and Siham Benabdallah were involved in cashing tax refund checks from one of two tax preparation companies, either Young Professional Services, Inc., or Supreme Tax, both owned and operated by co-defendants Douglas Michael Young and Nicole Young. In total, these defendants chased checks totaling $37,749.44.
On February 1, 2013, Douglas Michael Young, a/k/a “Douglas Pierre,”41, Nicole Young, a/k/a “Nicole Pierre,” a/k/a “Nicole Pierre Smith,” 42, both of Miramar, each pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to steal government property, one count of theft of government property, and one count of aggravated identity theft. Defendant Douglas Michael Young and his wife, Nicole Young, owned and operated two tax preparation companies, Supreme Tax and Young Professional Services, Inc. The Youngs would obtain identification information from unknowing victims and use their identification information to file fraudulent tax refund claims. The Youngs charged the unknowing victims a “fee” for their purported tax preparation service, which would be deducted from their refund check. The Youngs would deposit the “fees” into bank accounts they controlled. The remainder of the refunds would be converted into personal checks that would be deposited into bank accounts controlled by co-defendants Ernest V. Charles, Joseph Bshara, and Siham Benabdallah. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kurt Lunkenheimer.
An indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
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 http://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 http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.