Pair Charged In A $1 Million I.D. Theft And False Income Tax Refund Scheme
Public Affairs Officer
COLUMBUS, OHIO -- A federal grand jury here has indicted Jose Luis Martinez, 46, of Columbus, Ohio, and Mercedes Emelinda-Silie, 40, of Grove City, Ohio charging them both with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States government by obtaining and negotiating U.S. Treasury checks representing purported tax refunds; 39 counts of converting U.S. monies to their own use; one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering offenses; one count of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business; and eight counts of identity theft.
Carter M. Stewart, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; Darryl Williams, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office; and Dugan T. Wong, Assistant Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service announced the indictment that was returned today.
The indictment alleges that between February 2010 and December 2012, Martinez and Emelinda-Silie conspired together and with others primarily in New York state to illegally use their business checking accounts here in Columbus in order to cash fraudulently procured IRS income tax refund checks. The indictment charges that fraudulent tax returns were filed with the IRS seeking refunds in the names of persons living in Puerto Rico whose identities had been stolen. The IRS mailed the fraudulently obtained refund checks to addresses typically in the Bronx and other New York sites where they were stolen from the mail. In addition, the endorsements on the false refund checks allegedly were forged.
Martinez and Emelinda-Silie allegedly cashed at least $638,730.81 in fraudulent income tax refund checks through their San Isidro Cargo business account, and another $125,506.88 in purported income tax refund checks through Grini’s Salon business checking account.
Martinez and Emelinda-Silie allegedly provided check-cashing services even though neither of them, nor their business, was licensed in Ohio to operate as a check-cashing facility.
In addition, the indictment charges that between June 2010 and February 2011 Martinez and Emelinda-Silie converted 39 specific IRS tax refund checks totaling approximately $245,661.80 that the IRS had mailed to addresses primarily in New York.
The indictment further alleges that between June 2010 and November 2011 Martinez and Emelinda-Silie knowingly used stolen identities of eight individuals in relation to their conversions of government funds.
Conspiracy to cash bogus IRS refund checks refunds is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Each conversion of government money as well as conspiracy to commit money laundering is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Operating an unlicensed money transmitting business is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Each identity theft is punishable by a two-year term of imprisonment in addition to any other prison terms that may be imposed in this case.
The defendants will be summoned to appear before Judge Gregory L. Frost for arraignment.
“Identity theft is a despicable crime that victimizes honest taxpayers and causes immense hardship,” said Darryl Williams, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office. “IRS Criminal Investigation has made investigating refund fraud and identity theft a top priority.”
Assistant United States Attorney Daniel Brown is representing the United States in this case that is being investigated by special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.