Four People Charged in Stolen Identity Fraud and Money Laundering Scheme Targeting Banks and COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Funds
Two additional defendants pled guilty in a stolen identity tax refund fraud scheme.
Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, FBI, Miami Field Office, and Kelly R. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), made the announcement.
Zenova Abrahams, 44 of Naples, and Ronald Reed, 59 of Bartow, each pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to traffic in unauthorized access devices, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1029(b)(2), and one count of aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A . On May 14, 2015, co-defendant Joseph Houston, 43 of Naples, pled guilty to the same two charges.
According to court documents, defendants Houston and Abrahams met with a Confidential Informant (CI) in the Southern District of Florida, and described a business arrangement where they would obtain Personally Identifiable Information (PII) from their sources (later identified as co-defendant Reed and another individual), and provide that PII to the CI. The CI purportedly would file federal income tax returns using the PII, and receive refunds in the form of Refund Anticipation Loan checks or Treasury checks. Houston and Abrahams would then take and cash those checks. The Cl was to earn 30% of the profits. Houston and Abrahams would receive the remaining 70%, and pay a percentage of that to their sources for providing the PII.
After the CI provided a total of $5,000 in up-front payments to obtain the PII, Houston and Abrahams provided the CI with lists with 500+ identities containing PII that were to be used in the tax fraud scheme. When Reed met with Houston and attempted to pick up proceeds from the allegedly filed fraudulent tax returns, law enforcement approached Reed. Reed provided information regarding the source of the PII. Through the source’s employment, he/she had access to client files containing PII. Reed explained that many of the 500+ names, dates of birth, and social security numbers were documented in the source’s handwriting. Reed also indicated that the source gave him access to the employer’s files, which he used to prepare a portion of the lists provide to the CI.
Sentencing for defendant Houston is scheduled for July 24, 2015, and sentencing for defendants Abrahams and Reed are scheduled for August 20, 2015, all before U.S. District Court Judge William J. Zloch. At sentencing, the defendants each face a maximum of five years in prison for the conspiracy charge, and a mandatory term of two years in prison, consecutive to any other term in prison, for the aggravated identity theft charge.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and IRS-CI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurence M. Bardfeld.
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.