Two Palm Beach County Residents Indicted for Their Participation in Stolen Identity Tax Fraud Scheme
Two Palm Beach County residents were indicted on charges stemming from their participation in an extensive stolen identity 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), Nadine Gurley, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of the Inspector General, (HUD-OIG), and Karen Citizen-Wilcox, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General (USDA-OIG), made the announcement.
Latonia Verdell, 40, and Kelli Witherspoon McIntosh, 39, both of Palm Beach County, were charged by superseding indictment with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349; wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343; theft of government funds, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641; and aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, section 1028A(a)(1). In addition, Verdell was all charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, section 922(g)(1); possession of more than fifteen unauthorized access devices, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1029(a)(3); theft of government funds, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641; and making a false statement to a federal government agency, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001. Yesterday, both Verdell and McIntosh were arraigned on the superseding indictment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dave Lee Brannon. Verdell had previously been indicted alone for the sole count of unlawful gun possession.
According to allegations contained in the superseding indictment and the court record, Verdell recruited and led her co-conspirators, including McIntosh, in a widespread stolen identity refund fraud scheme involving more than 800 stolen identities and personal identification information (PII). This PII was used to file fraudulent income tax returns online, with those refunds being directed to various bank accounts created and maintained by Verdell, McIntosh and others, as well as to reloadable debit cards. Identity theft victims whose personal information was used for this scheme spanned from Indian River, Highlands, St. Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach Counties, as well as persons outside the State of Florida. This scheme resulted in the submission to the IRS of more than 590 fraudulent returns in the names of other persons, seeking approximately $1.5 million in fraudulent income tax refunds.
The indictment further alleges that evidence of the stolen PII was found in Verdell’s home during the execution of a federal search warrant. Also found in Verdell’s home during the search warrant was a stolen .38 caliber pistol.
The investigation further revealed, according to allegations in the indictment, that while Verdell was collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the fraudulent tax refunds, she was applying for and receiving federal welfare assistance program benefits, from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and other governmental entities. One of those assistance programs was USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly referred to as food stamps. During the application process, Verdell falsely represented her monthly income in order to receive SNAP benefits.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the IRS-CI, HUD-OIG and USDA-OIG. Mr. Ferrer also thanked the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance in the lengthy investigation and ultimate arrests. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Theodore Cooperstein.
An indictment is merely an allegation, and every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
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.