Miami-Dade County Resident Sentenced in Identity Theft Tax Fraud Scheme Involving Deceased and Other Individuals' Personal Identifying Information
A Miami-Dade County resident was sentenced to 44 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for his participation in an identity theft tax fraud scheme using deceased and other individuals' personal identifying information (PII).
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), Robert C. Hutchinson, Acting Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Miami Field Office, and J. Scott Dennis, Chief, North Miami Beach Police Department (NMBPD), made the announcement.
Joshua Chikudo, 40, previously pled guilty to one count of wire fraud conspiracy, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349, and one count of aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A.
Co-defendant Curtis Joseph, a/k/a "CJ," 36, of Miami-Dade, pled guilty to one count of wire fraud conspiracy. Sentencing for defendant Joseph is scheduled for October 6, 2015 at 1:00 p.m. before Judge Beth Bloom.
According to court documents, Joseph met with an IRS confidential informant (CI) and discussed a scheme to cash tax refund checks involving PII stolen from a medical clinic. The CI introduced Joseph to an undercover IRS agent. During three separate meetings, Joseph gave the undercover agent a total of thirteen tax refund checks for the undercover agent to cash. In exchange, the undercover agent gave Joseph approximately sixty-five percent (65%) of the check amounts as payment for his participation in the illicit scheme.
Court documents also state that at another meeting, the undercover agent provided Joseph with five IRS-controlled identities, consisting of fictitious PII - names, social security numbers, and dates of birth - to be used by a tax preparer in order to file fraudulent federal tax returns. During a separate meeting, the undercover agent gave Chikudo seven additional IRS-controlled identities that Chikudo intended to include in fraudulent tax return filings. Chikudo asked the undercover agent if he could obtain a business bank account for the purpose of depositing the fraudulent tax refunds into that account to avoid detection. The defendants and the undercover agent agreed that they would split all of the tax refunds equally amongst themselves and a fictitious undercover partner. The undercover agent provided Chikudo with IRS-controlled bank account information to be included on the fraudulent tax returns. The defendants caused six fraudulent federal income tax returns to be filed. The majority of the filings designated the IRS-controlled bank account as the intended recipient of the fraudulent refunds.
Furthermore, court documents state that between April and August of 2013, the defendants filed thirty-two fraudulent federal income tax returns using eleven IRS-controlled identities, to request refunds totaling $197,688. Twenty-one of the returns were joint returns that included the PII of deceased individuals.
During the sentencing, Judge Bloom specifically referenced that back in 2007, Chikudo and been previously enjoined in a $1 million civil action initiated by the IRS for filing fraudulent tax returns claiming fuel tax credits and telephone excise tax credits on behalf of his clients that they were not entitled to claim. The resulting injunction order entered by United States District Court Judge James I. Cohn barred Chikudo from acting as a return preparer, preparing or filing federal tax returns, assisting taxpayers in understating their tax liabilities or evading taxes, and engaging in other conduct that interfered with the administration or enforcement of the internal revenue laws.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI, ICE-HSI and NMBPD. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Alicia E. Shick