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Examples of Identity Theft Investigations - Fiscal Year 2017

The following examples of Identity Theft Investigations are written from public record documents on file in the courts within the judicial district where the cases were prosecuted.

Tampa Woman Sentenced for Stolen Identity Refund Fraud
On April 18, 2017, in Tampa, Florida, Melissa Hayes, of Tampa, was sentenced to 27 months in prison for conspiracy to commit theft of government property and identity theft. Between January and June 2012, Hayes deposited 22 fraudulent government and tax refund checks, totaling over $160,000, into her business bank account. She then withdrew the funds the same day or the following day, spent the money on point-of-purchase items, transferred the money to her personal bank account and shared the funds with her co-conspirators.

Florida Man Sentenced for Tax Fraud and Identity Theft
On April 14, 2017, in Tallahassee, Florida, Roosevelt Williams Jr., of Miami, was sentenced to 60 months in prison and ordered to pay $207,882 in restitution for filing fraudulent federal income tax returns. In October 2011, Williams was caught on Florida State University’s campus with 14 debit cards in other people’s names. In July 2013, he was stopped for speeding near the Atlanta airport. During a search of the vehicle, 18 debit cards issued in the names of other people, as well as a loaded pistol and $14,300 in cash were discovered. Each of the debit cards reflected a fraudulent attempt to obtain a tax refund based upon another person’s identity. A laptop computer and documents seized in Atlanta contained more than 100 stolen identities, as well as numerous visits to tax return filing websites and to websites where details of identity could be verified.

Florida Man Sentenced For Theft of Government Money and Aggravated Identity Theft
On April 14, 2017, in Orlando, Florida, Manuel Enrique Santana, of Orlando, was sentenced to 48 months in prison for theft of government funds and aggravated identity theft. In addition, Santana was ordered to pay a money judgment of $64,889, the proceeds of the charged criminal conduct. Santana deposited 47 stolen federal tax refund checks into three of his own bank accounts over a 10-day period. The vast majority of checks were endorsed with forged signatures of the intended payees, all of whom had filed returns for the 2013 tax year and were expecting to receive their refund checks by mail.

Texas Man Sentenced for Mail Fraud, Tax Fraud and Identity Theft
On April 13, 2017, in Austin, Texas, David Akharume Afenkhena was sentenced to 65 months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $50,961 in restitution for stealing mail and the personal identification information (PII) from hundreds of victims. Afenkhena admitted that in 2016 he used a United States Postal Service (USPS) “Arrow Key” to gain access to the contents of mail boxes located at various apartment complexes in and around Austin. Afenkhena then changed the victims’ true mailing address to mailboxes he could access. He then used the stolen PII to open credit card accounts and bank accounts in victims’ names associated with the new fraudulent addresses. He also used the stolen PII to file fraudulent income tax returns and receive the refund checks in the mail.

New Jersey Man Sentenced for Tax Scam
On April 12, 2017, in Newark, New Jersey, Winfred Moses, of East Orange, was sentenced to 26 months in prison, three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay restitution of $200,045. Winfred Moses previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to make and present false, fictitious, and fraudulent claims to the IRS. According to court documents, from 2013 through August 5, 2014, Moses, Reginald Eaford, also of East Orange, and others conspired to file bogus federal tax returns in order to fraudulently obtain tax refunds. Eaford was an inmate at the Essex County Correctional Facility from approximately May 20, 2013 through February 12, 2014. As part of the scheme, Eaford, Moses, and others obtained social security numbers, dates of birth, and other information from inmates at the jail. Eaford and Moses would then generate false W-2 forms indicating that the inmates had earned income during the relevant tax year and that federal income tax had been withheld from their paychecks. Afterwards, Eaford and Moses filed false federal income tax returns on behalf of the inmates and had the refund checks sent to the Essex County Correctional Facility or to Moses’s residence. The proceeds of the fraud were split among Eaford, Moses, and the relevant inmates. Eaford and Moses admitted that they filed 112 phony tax returns that sought approximately $670,206 in fraudulent refunds. Eaford previously pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.

New York State Man Sentenced for Role in Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Scheme
On April 10, 2017, in Erie, Pennsylvania, Adetunji Gbadegeshi, of Rosedale, New York, was sentenced to 36 months in prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Gbadegeshi used the hundreds of stolen identities found in his house to open bank accounts that were used as repositories for fraudulently obtained federal tax refunds. Gbadegeshi would then remove the money from the accounts and distribute it to his co-conspirators.

Pennsylvania Man Sentenced for Defrauding the IRS
On April 10, 2017, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Ahmed Kamara, of Collingdale, was sentenced to 84 months in prison for his role in tax fraud. Kamara and five co-conspirators were charged with conspiring to file false federal tax returns for themselves and others. As a manager of Medmans Financial Services, a tax preparation business operating out of Philadelphia, Kamara prepared fraudulent federal income tax returns for himself and his clients. From 2008 to 2013, Kamara obtained names, dates of birth, and social security numbers of children in foster care, and falsely claimed that these children were the dependents on the fraudulent federal income tax returns he prepared for himself and his clients. Over this period of time, Kamara prepared 1,217 returns which resulted in a tax loss to the Internal Revenue Service of approximately $7,972,093.

Florida Men Sentenced for Identity Theft and Filing False Tax Returns
Between April 10 and March 28, 2017 in Tampa, Florida, Maurice Rahmaan, Larry Chance Cox and Anthony Michael Harris were sentenced to 61, 84 and 72 months in prison, respectively, for conspiracy and aggravated identity theft. Restitution of $63,332 will be paid joint and severally by the three men. Harris worked at a pediatric gastroenterology practice where he had access to patient medical records that contained the personally identifiable information (“PII”) of the practice’s patients, their parents and guardians. Harris conspired with his co-defendants, Cox and Rahmaan, to steal the PII from his employer so that Cox, Rahmaan, and others could use that information to apply for credit cards online and file fraudulent federal income tax returns. Investigators recovered the PII of more than 13,000 individuals that Harris stole and was used to apply for unauthorized credit cards. They also attempted to file approximately 180 fraudulent federal income tax returns.  

Oklahoma Woman Sentenced for Fraud, Money Laundering
On April 10, 2017, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Regina Fran Webb was sentenced to 57 months in prison, five years of supervised release and ordered to pay $713,245 in restitution as well as forfeit $464,500. Webb, former owner of Owasso Title LLC and Owasso Real Estate Services, pleaded guilty Dec. 2, 2017 to theft of mortgage settlement funds and unauthorized use of a credit card. The two charges were part of a 28-count superseding indictment issued June 7 by a grand jury that accused Webb of financial institution fraud, money laundering, unauthorized use of a credit card and aggravated identity theft with alleged losses totaling more than $800,000. Webb admitted to keeping $95,536 that was part of the proceeds intended to pay off the seller in a January 2011 property transaction that she oversaw. The other guilty plea relates to funds that were meant to pay off loans. Instead, the money was used by Webb to make a payment on an American Express credit card account that she opened in a former client’s name.

Montana Man Sentenced for Obstructing the IRS
On March 24, 2017, in Missoula, Montana, Steven D. Pjevach, a former resident of Nevada, was sentenced to 36 months in prison, one year of supervised release and ordered to pay $239,337 in restitution to the IRS for interfering with the internal revenue laws. From March 2010 through September 2014, Steven D. Pjevach filed tax returns seeking refunds using personal identification information (PII) that he gathered through phony help-wanted advertisements that he posted on Craigslist.  The filings directed the IRS to send the fraudulent refunds to bank accounts in Pjevach’s name and the names of other individuals who Pjevach supplied with false information in order to permit him to use their accounts.

Florida Family Members Sentenced for Tax Fraud
On March 20, 2017 in Tampa, Florida, Elise Ellis was sentenced to 18 months in prison and six months’ home detention for conspiracy to commit tax fraud and aggravated identity theft. On March 7, 2017, Ellis’ sons, Keith Godbolt and Paul Johnson were sentenced to 42 and 48 months in prison, respectively, for conspiracy to commit tax fraud and aggravated identity theft. As part of their sentences, the three will jointly pay money judgements in the amount of $221,000, representing the proceeds of the tax fraud conspiracy. From August 2011 through April 2013, Godbolt, Johnson and Ellis conspired to commit wire fraud, theft of government property, and identity theft by electronically filing fraudulent tax returns in other people’s names, using their social security numbers. The fraudulent tax refunds were directed to bank accounts in defendants’ names, or in some cases, to debit cards they controlled. The trio then withdrew the fraudulent refunds by writing checks or otherwise transferring funds to each other through bank transfers or cash withdrawals. Most of the fraudulently filed tax returns claimed unusually high taxable interest or dividend income, many using the exact same figure, with a large withholding amount, and a false occupation listed for the taxpayer. Many of the victims were deceased when their false tax return was filed.

Florida Man Sentenced for Stealing Identities of 3,680 Individuals
On March 15, 2017, in Miami, Florida, Aamir Khan was sentenced to 44 months in prison. On June 10, 2014, Khan was arrested for driving without a license. A search revealed that Khan had a USB drive in his pocket. A consensual search of the USB drive revealed the personal Identifying information (PII) of approximately 3,680 individuals. Further investigation revealed some of the PIl was used to to file individual federal income tax returns for tax years 2012 and 2013. These tax returns contained several indicators of fraud, including the use of duplicate street addresses, same employers, and the same bank account numbers.

Two Identity Document Suppliers Sentenced For Roles in Identity Trafficking Schemes
On March 14, 2017, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Francisco Matos-Beltre and Isaias Beltre-Matos were each sentenced to 51 months in prison in for their roles in trafficking the identities of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens and corresponding identity documents. Matros-Beltre, formerly of Philadelphia, admitted to being a document supplier and that he bought and transferred identity documents belonging to real people to document brokers. Matos-Beltre admitted that he knew his customers would fraudulently use the documents that he provided. Beltre-Matos, 46, a Dominican national and legal permanent resident formerly of Providence, Rhode Island, admitted that he, too, sold identity documents to customers, who generally obtained the identity documents to assume the identity of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens and to obtain additional identification documents, such as legitimate state driver’s licenses.  Some customers obtained the documents to commit financial fraud and attempted to obtain a U.S. passport. Other co-conspirators, also identity document suppliers and brokers, located in various cities throughout the United States allegedly solicited customers for the sale of social security cards and corresponding Puerto Rico birth certificates for prices ranging from $400 to $1,200 per set. The defendants also admitted that the conspirators used the U.S. mail to complete their illicit transactions.

Wisconsin Woman Sentenced for Tax Fraud Scheme
On March 14, 2017, in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Billie Jo Bottine, of Neenah, Wisconsin, was sentenced to 48 months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $186,414 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service. Bottine filed more than 70 false federal income tax returns in the names of 32 different people between 2009 and 2014. To prepare these false returns, Bottine unlawfully used the names, dates of birth, and social security numbers of various individuals and children. She created fake W2 forms and fake Schedule C forms that she attached to the filings in an effort to obtain fraudulent tax refunds.

Rhode Island Women Sentenced in Multi-Million Dollar Identity Theft, Tax Fraud Scheme
On March 10, 2017, in Providence, Rhode Island, Erika Tomasino and Doris Morel, both of Central Falls, were each sentenced to 36 months in prison. Tomasino was ordered to pay $1,817,431 in restitution. Morel was ordered to pay $1,225,580 in restitution. Tomasino was a bookkeeper and secretary for Juan Vasquez, of Providence. Vasquez, a businessman, was the mastermind behind a long-running scheme run out of his business, the former Dominican Supermarket. Doris Morel was a full-time cashier at the former Dominican Supermarket in Pawtucket. For nearly four years, beginning in January 2010, the defendants participated in a scheme in which they used the stolen identities of more than 400 individuals on fraudulent tax returns resulting in the theft of more than $2.6 million in fraudulent tax refunds. Vasquez, along with other co-conspirators, was sentenced in 2016.

Rockford Woman Sentenced For Federal Tax Fraud, Identify Theft
On February 28, 2017, in Rockford, Illinois, Crystal S. Jackson, of Rockford, was sentenced to 51 months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $200 in special assessments and pay the United States Treasury $99,479 in restitution. Jackson admitted that, between 2011 and 2013, she prepared and filed 45 false federal individual income tax returns in the names of other individuals without their permission, causing fraudulent claims for refunds to be made against the United States Treasury. Jackson admitted that as a result of her fraud, the IRS issued refunds in the total amount of $99,479.

Last Tax Return Preparer in $6.6 Million Scheme Sentenced for Tax Fraud, Identity Theft
On February 9, 2017, in Miami, Florida, Paganini Fleurantin, of Miami, was sentenced to 65 months in prison and ordered to pay, joint and several, restitution of $86,082. Fleurantin was the final tax return preparer in a multi-defendant scheme that claimed more than $6,663,976 in fraudulent tax refunds from the IRS. Fleurantin and his co-defendants filed tax returns using stolen identities to claim fraudulent refunds.  In 2016, 10 other defendants received sentences ranging from 78 months to 21 months for their roles in the scheme.

Miami Man Sentenced for Stolen Identity Tax Fraud Scheme
On February 7, 2017, in Miami, Florida, Raphael Oswald was sentenced to 74 months in prison for his participation in a stolen identity tax fraud scheme. In August 2013, law enforcement began investigating Oswald for identity theft charges related to his use of the stolen identity of a woman to purchase and finance two vehicles in New York. During the course of the initial identity theft investigation, a separate tax refund fraud scheme involving Oswald was discovered. Oswald possessed and used stolen personal identifying information (PII) of numerous individuals, and used the information to file fraudulent tax returns and collect tax refunds. More than 100 fraudulent federal tax returns were filed and unlawful refunds totaling $139,308 were directed into bank accounts in the name of Oswald’s company. Oswald then made a series of cash withdrawals from the bank accounts for personal items.

Mississippi Woman Sentenced for Mail Fraud, Identity Theft
On February 6, 2017, in Monroe, Louisiana, Andrea W. White, of Jackson, was sentenced to 26 months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $195,296 in restitution for identity theft and tax fraud.  From Jan. 6, 2012 to Sept. 25, 2012, White conducted a scheme to electronically file 100 fraudulent income tax returns using stolen identities. Most of the refunds were then mailed to four post office boxes in Tallulah. On April 27, 2012, the IRS mailed one such refund check to a post office box in the name of an innocent taxpayer for $5,454. White received the benefit of that federal tax refund.

Unregistered Tax Service Provider Sentenced for Wire Fraud and Identity Theft
On February 3, 2017, in Tampa, Florida, Donna Demps was sentenced to 125 months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution of $125,801. Demps formed the Florida corporation,“D&D Honest Relieable [sic] Tax Services LLC.” She then used the corporation to open bank accounts where she electronically transferred tax refunds obtained by stealing the identities of real people, many of whom were veterans, disabled, elderly, or otherwise unable to care for themselves. Demps never registered her tax preparation service with the Internal Revenue Service since she would have had to reveal that she was an eight-time convicted felon.

Florida Man Sentenced for Stolen Identity Refund Fraud
On February 2, 2017, in Tampa, Florida, Adrian Lark was sentenced to 72 months in prison for theft of government funds and aggravated identity theft. Between May 2011 and May 2013, Lark obtained the personal identifying information (PII) of others and then used it to file fraudulent tax returns with the IRS. During a search of his residence, law enforcement officers discovered notebooks of PII, as well as debit cards in other individuals’ names. The investigation revealed that Lark had filed more than 200 fraudulent tax returns requesting approximately $1.2 million in fraudulent tax refunds.

Texas Tax Return Preparer Sentenced for Tax Fraud/Identity Theft Scheme
On January 26, 2017, in Tyler, Texas, Jefferson Kincade, of Palestine, was sentenced to 102 months in prison for tax fraud and aggravated identity theft. Kincade also agreed to a cash forfeiture of $110,919. Kincade prepared tax returns for individuals at a tax preparation business, EZ Tax, and devised a scheme to prepare false tax returns, steal clients' refunds, and use the clients' and other individuals' identities to accomplish the theft.  Kincade's made false statements and representations in the tax returns that he submitted in order to increase the amount of tax refunds to which the taxpayer would be entitled.  Kincade was able to intercept the government tax refunds for his own benefit by printing the refund checks, not giving them to his clients, and then cashing them with the assistance of two individuals who were not associated with EZ Tax.  

Alabama Man Sentenced for Tax Fraud Scheme
On January 26, 2017, in Huntsville, Alabama, Martin Tyronne Woods of Huntsville, was sentenced to 46 months in prison for his scheme to have more than $600,000 in fraudulent federal and Washington, D.C., tax refund checks deposited into his bank accounts. From September 2012 through April 2013 in Madison County, Woods and others submitted fraudulent federal and District of Columbia tax refund checks for deposit into his bank accounts. Many of the refunds were in the names of deceased individuals.

Illinois Business Owner Sentenced for Identity Theft, Filing False Tax Returns
On January 17, 2017, in Chicago, Illinois, Carlos Smith was sentenced to 60 months in prison, two years of supervised release and ordered to pay $633,884 in restitution to the IRS. From approximately January 2011 through April 2015, Smith operated CLS Financial Services Inc, a business that offered credit repair or credit card processing services. Smith stole personal identifying information obtained from clients and used the information to file false individual income tax returns. Smith also stole identities of individuals who worked for Chicago’s Board of Education and used this information to file false individual income tax returns. Smith filed approximately 92 fraudulent income tax returns, claiming more than $1 million in refunds. Smith directed the fraudulently obtained tax refunds to prepaid debit cards, addresses, and bank accounts he controlled, including accounts opened in the names of individuals whose identities he had stolen. Smith also filed his own false individual income tax returns for 2012 through 2014.

Ohio Man Sentenced for Identity Theft and Tax Fraud
On January 9, 2017, in Cleveland, Ohio, Darryl E. Farmer, of Cleveland Heights, was sentenced to 70 months in prison and ordered to pay $100,230 in restitution for identity theft and tax violations. Farmer held himself out as a neighborhood tax preparer paying recruiters a “referral fee” to provide him identifications and personal identifiers of others. Farmer used this information to file false tax returns, including claiming tax credits for businesses that did not exist. Farmer also opened multiple personal and business bank accounts, which he controlled, in the names of these various people in order to deposit the refunds from the tax returns he filed.

Iowa Woman Sentenced for Income Tax Fraud
On December 28, 2016, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Kaeisha Robinson, from Phoenix, Ariz., and formerly of Maquoketa and Dubuque, Iowa, was sentenced to to 84 months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to make $336,380 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and $12,143 in restitution to the Eastern Iowa Regional Housing Authority. Robinson admitted that from May 2011 to February 2013, she filed numerous false and fraudulent tax returns in both her own name and the names of others, some of whom were unaware that Robinson was using their identities to file fraudulent returns. Robinson also admitted that as a result of these fraudulent returns, she received tax refunds from the IRS to which she was not entitled and stole money from the government. Robinson also admitted that from October 2011 through July 2013, she lied on forms in order to receive $12,143 in Section 8 housing assistance.

Maryland Man Sentenced for Using Stolen Identifying Information to File False Income Tax Returns
On December 20, 2016 in Washington, DC, Kevin Brown, of Capitol Heights, Maryland, was sentenced to 135 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $4,543,659 to the Internal Revenue Service. Brown was a key organizer and leader of an extensive network of more than 130 individuals who ran identity theft and tax fraud scheme that falsely sought more than $20 million in refunds. For tax years 2005 through 2012, this group filed false tax returns in the names of individuals, whose identities had been stolen, including the elderly, people in assisted living facilities, drug addicts and incarcerated prisoners. False tax returns were also filed in the names of, and refunds were issued to, willing participants in the scheme.  The returns filed listed more than 400 “taxpayer” addresses located in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. The false returns typically reported inflated or fictitious income from a sole proprietorship and claimed phony dependents to generate an Earned Income Tax Credit, a refundable federal income tax credit for working families with low to moderate incomes.

Tallahassee Woman Sentenced for Tax Fraud
On December 16, 2016, in Tallahassee, Florida, Lydia Jennine Thomas, of Tallahassee, was sentenced to 24 months and one day in prison for theft of public money and aggravated identity theft. Thomas admitted that, between 2012 and 2014, she knowingly prepared and electronically filed fraudulent tax returns. The personal identifying information that Thomas used on the tax returns came from homeless people, inmates, and Thomas’s family members. The tax returns typically claimed false income that generated refunds of approximately $6,000. Thomas established recipient addresses, such as abandoned houses and rental properties, and directed the refunds to arrive in the form of treasury checks and debit cards.

North Miami Resident Sentenced for Identity Theft
On December 15, 2016, in Miami, Florida, Camelin Junior Desrosiers was sentenced to 47 months in prison and three years of supervised release for possessing 2,434 stolen identities. In February 2015, law enforcement initiated a traffic stop on a rental car leased by Desrosiers. Because the vehicle contained after-market tinted windows, which violated the rental car contract, law enforcement initiated a tow of the vehicle to return it to the rental car company. An inventory search of the car was conducted prior to it being towed, at which time law enforcement found a laptop computer owned by Desrosiers. A forensic analysis of the computer revealed 2,434 pieces of personal identifying information (PII). Law enforcement spoke with one individual who had PII in the computer, and confirmed that he/she did not authorize Desrosiers to be in possession of the PII.

California Women Sentenced for Tax Refund Conspiracy
On December 9, 2016, in Sacramento, California, Sherry Taggart, of El Dorado Hills, was sentenced to 24 months in prison and ordered to pay $757,412 in restitution. On December 2, 2016, her co-conspirator, Barbara Antonucci, an unlicensed tax preparer, was sentenced to 42 months in prison and ordered to pay $1,895,833 in restitution for her role in the conspiracy. Taggart joined a scheme initiated in 2008 and operated by her Antonucci to obtain false refunds by preparing and filing false claims on behalf of clients with the IRS. Together, the two conspired to prepare and file hundreds of false claims with the IRS between June 2012 and March 2014, seeking refunds totaling approximately $1.4 million. The scheme included filing false wages and dependents on may of the fraudulent returns. Taggart and Antonucci also filed false claims on their own behalf.

Ivory Coast Diplomat Sentenced for Conspiracy and Fraud
On December 9, 2016 in Alexandria, Virginia, Koissy Thomas Kemmeth, of New York, New York, was sentenced to 15 months in prison, three years of supervised release, ordered to forfeit $37,000 and pay restitution of $105,000. From 2010 through February 2015, Kemmeth worked as a driver for the Ivory Coast Mission to the United Nations where he worked with Kouame Tanoh, another Ivory Coast citizen. The two developed a scheme to defraud others of money and property. During that time, Kemmeth assisted Tanoh in the preparation and electronic filing of false and fictitious federal and state income tax returns to receive fraudulent refunds. Kemmeth also provided his bank account information to Tanoh in order to have the fraudulent refunds deposited into the account.  With Kemmeth’s knowledge and consent, Tanoh also used the Ivory Coast Mission’s mailing address on some of the fraudulent income tax returns in order for Kemmeth to collect the refunds.

Georgia Bank Teller Sentenced for Cashing Fraudulently Obtained Income Tax Refund Checks
On December 8, 2016, in Atlanta, Georgia, Tonya Alexander of Columbus, was sentenced to 37 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised released and ordered to pay restitution of $606,008 to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for her role in a stolen identity refund fraud scheme. Between June 2012 and December 2013, Alexander worked as a bank teller in Columbus where she received and cashed fraudulently obtained income tax refund checks in exchange for a fee.  Alexander’s co-conspirators, including Tracy Mitchell, Keisha Lanier and others, filed fraudulent income tax returns using stolen identities and directed other co-conspirators to bring the fraudulently obtained refund checks to Alexander to cash. Alexander received and cashed approximately 330 fraudulently obtained tax refund checks that totaled more than $600,000. Alexander also recruited another bank teller, co-conspirator Vicky Wheeler, to assist in cashing the tax refund checks. Lanier, Mitchell and other co-conspirators received sentences ranging from 159 months to two years of probation for their roles in the conspiracy.

Houston Man Sentenced in Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Scheme
On December 5, 2016 in Houston, Texas, Antolin Julio Nazario, aka Robinson Gomez Churon, was sentenced to 92 months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $807,096 in restitution for his role in a sophisticated tax fraud/identity theft scheme involving more than 800 victims. Nazario’s wife, Thalia Diaz Camareno, aka Irene Carrero Echevarria, was also convicted for her role in the scheme and will be sentenced at a later date. From approximately June 2010 to January 2012, the couple used stolen and unlawfully obtained personal identifying information (PII) of true persons to prepare fraudulent U.S. income tax returns. Nazario and Camareno mailed the fraudulent returns through the U.S. Postal Service and directed the fraudulently obtained tax refunds be disbursed as U.S. Treasury checks. The refunds were then used to obtain cash and goods for their own benefit. The current fraudulent tax refund filings attributed to this couple have resulted in $4,095,959 potential loss, an excess of $800,000 was paid out by the IRS and involves more than 800 victims whose identities were stolen to conduct the scheme.

Florida Couple Sentenced for Tax Fraud and Identity Theft
On December 1, 2016, in Tampa, Florida, Jessieca Omowele, and her husband, Kevin B. Jones, both of Tampa, were each sentenced to 75 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $1,586,245  to the IRS for theft of government property and aggravated identity theft. From at least 2011, through and including 2015, Omowele and Jones, together and with others, agreed and conspired to electronically file fraudulent federal income tax returns using the personal identifying information (PII) of unknowing identity theft victims, some of whom were deceased, in order to obtain tax refunds to which they were not entitled. Many, if not all, of the returns were electronically filed from the defendants’ residence, with the refunds deposited onto debit cards in the conspirators’ names and/or sent to addresses associated with the conspirators. Omowele and Jones then used the debit cards at retail stores, ATMs, and to make online purchases. Records show that they also used their victims’ information to obtain utility service at their home and to apply for student loans, all without their victims’ knowledge or consent. The IRS determined that the conspirators filed fraudulent tax returns using stolen PII from over 1,500 individuals, claiming refunds totaling $9,424,989 and received $1,586,245 in proceeds.

Winter Haven Man Sentenced for Stealing Tax Refunds and Identity Theft
On November 30, in Tampa, Florida, Daniel White was sentenced to 84 months in prison for his role in a stolen identity refund fraud scheme. White was also ordered to pay a money judgment for $320,703, which are the losses to the United States Treasury. White was found guilty in August 2012, but before he could be sentenced, he absconded.  In July 2016, law enforcement officers located White in Polk County and arrested him. From May 2011 until October 2011, White used stolen personal identifying information (PII) from at least 39 victims, many of whom were deceased, to prepare and file tax returns without their knowledge or consent. White then directed the IRS to electronically deposit the fraudulent refunds into a bank account that he controlled.  

Kansas Tax Return Preparer Sentenced for Aggravated Identity Theft and Stealing Government Funds
On November 29, 2016, in Kansas City, Missouri, Richard Drake, a Stillwell, Kansas, tax return preparer was sentenced to 48 months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $2,432,147 in restitution to the IRS, and $98,087 to the Kansas Department of Revenue. Drake used three of his clients’ personal identities to file false federal income tax returns that claimed inflated refunds. As part of his scheme, Drake prepared accurate federal income tax returns for these clients, which he provided to them but did not file with the IRS. He then had these clients make estimated tax payments to the IRS during the year. Once it was time to file on behalf of his clients, Drake filed false tax returns with the IRS that underreported his clients’ income and claimed false expenses in order to generate large income tax refunds which he directed to accounts under his control.

Broward County Resident Sentenced for Role in Stolen Identity Tax Fraud Scheme
On November 21, 2016, in Miami, Florida, Clifford Blain, of Broward County was sentenced to 36 months in prison and three years of supervised release for his participation in a stolen identity tax fraud scheme. Blain deposited a United States Treasury check containing a forged endorsement and signature of another individual into a bank account he controlled.

Tampa Man Sentenced In Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Scheme
On November 18, 2016, in Tampa, Florida, Cedric Clark was sentenced to 102 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $1,933,862 to the IRS. Between October 2010 and June 2013, Clark engaged in a fraud scheme involving the filing of false and fraudulent income tax returns in the names of living and deceased individuals. Clark and his co-conspirators received approximately $1.9 million in tax refund checks from the IRS. They had filed returns requesting refunds of almost $6 million.

Minnesota Couple Sentenced For Multi-Million-Dollar Income Tax Refund Fraud Scheme
On November 17, 2016, in St. Paul, Minnesota, Mark Arlin Hammerschmidt, and his wife, Ornella Angelina Hammerschmidt, of Prior Lake, were sentenced to 135 months and 48 months in prison, respectively. In addition Mark Hammerschmidt was ordered to pay $1,832,986 in restitution and Ornella Hammerschmidt was ordered to pay $45,365 in restitution, for their roles in orchestrating a multi-million-dollar tax fraud scheme. From January 2011 through February 2013, Mark and Ornella Hammerschmidt operated an immigration and tax preparation business, called American Group, located in Shakopee, Minn. and Winter Garden, Fla., which they utilized to prepare and file more than 1,000 fraudulent federal income tax returns. The defendants attracted customers to American Group by misrepresenting their professional credentials and certifications. Most notably, Ornella Hammerschmidt falsely represented herself as a licensed immigration attorney. As part of the scheme, the defendants attempted to conceal their involvement as fraudulent return preparers by intentionally not signing the tax returns on the part of the form meant to be signed by paid preparers. The defendants also falsely reported their business addresses and bank accounts controlled by them as the addresses and bank accounts of their taxpayer clients. In connection with this part of the scheme, the defendants sought approximately $200,000 in fraudulent tax refund payments. Many of the defendants’ clients were non-or-limited English speakers, who relied on the defendants to properly and legally prepare their taxes. The false returns filed on behalf of the taxpayer clients caused substantial harm to them, both in terms of problems with the IRS and problems with immigration status. In addition, Mark Hammerschmidt obtained the personal identification information (PII) of hundreds of Guatemalan citizens and then prepared and filed with the IRS applications for Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (“ITINs”) in the names of the Guatemalan citizens. Once he obtained the ITINs, Mark Hammerschmidt filed multiple years’ worth of false tax returns in the Guatemalan citizens’ names, seeking refunds based on false information. Mark Hammerschmidt also used the PII to file false Minnesota state income tax returns. In connection with this part of the scheme, the defendant sought approximately $1.8 million in tax refunds based on the fraudulent tax returns he filed.

North Miami Check Casher Sentenced for Cashing Over $11 Million in Fraudulent Tax Refund Checks
On November 16, 2016, in Miami, Florida, Junior Jean Baptiste was sentenced to 212 months in prison for cashing fraudulent tax refund checks obtained from the filing of tax returns using stolen identities. From 2009 to 2011, Baptiste operated a check cashing store in North Miami and cashed over $11 million from over 2,000 fraudulent tax refund checks that had been issued in the names of dead people, disabled people, and other people who do not typically file tax returns. Baptiste typically took a fee of half of the value of the checks and made false identification documents for his files. In connection with the cashing of these fraudulent checks, the defendant possessed over 900 false driver's licenses, work permits, and green cards. The defendant used the fraudulently obtained funds to purchase, among other things, a cargo ship, multiple vehicles, and rights to an album of a prominent hip-hop artist.

South Florida Resident Sentenced for Stealing Housing and Food Assistance Benefits and Committing Aggravated Identity Theft
On November 16, 2016, in Miami, Florida, Jamye Sharne Barnes, aka Jamye Barnes Sawyers, was sentenced to 36 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $187,997. Barnes applied for, and received, HUD Section 8 housing benefits and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Barnes filed annual applications certifying under oath information relating to her income, employment, and bank accounts held, but failed to disclose income that would have disqualified her from receiving the benefits. During the time that she received these benefits, Barnes owned and operated a tax preparation business and was the authorized signee of several bank accounts for the company. Barnes used the bank accounts to pay the company’s employees and for her personal benefit. In 2012, over 30 fraudulently obtained tax refund checks were deposited into one of the company’s bank accounts. The total amount of the checks deposited was $188,746.70. Barnes personally withdrew at least $127,327 from the account.

South Carolina Woman Sentenced for Tax Fraud Scheme
On November 10, 2016, in Montgomery, Alabama, Willie May Ford, of Lamar, South Carolina, was sentenced to 51 months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution of $1,672,971 for access device fraud. Ford and another individual used counterfeit travelers’ checks to purchase items at two separate stores, which led to their arrest. Numerous traveler’s checks, credit and debit cards, and pieces of personal identifying information were seized from the vehicle that Ford had traveled in to Alabama. A subsequent investigation revealed that the personal information of over 400 individuals was used to file fraudulent federal income tax returns.

Supermarket Owner, Accomplice Sentenced in Identity Theft, Tax Fraud Scheme
On November 4, 2016, in Providence, Rhode Island, Juan Vasquez was sentenced to 72 months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $2,682,042 in restitution to the IRS. Vasquez was the mastermind behind a long-running scheme to use the stolen identities of more than 400 individuals on fraudulent tax returns resulting in the receipt of more than $2.6 million in fraudulent tax refunds. Vasquez ran the scheme out of his business, the former Dominican Supermarket in Pawtucket. Vasquez’ sister, Belkis Vasquez, of Central Falls, was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay restitution to the IRS of $325,490 for her participation in the conspiracy. Doris Morel, a full-time cashier at the Dominican Supermarket, and Erika Tomasino, a secretary for Juan Vasquez, were also convicted for their participation in the conspiracy. Morel and Tomasino are scheduled to be sentenced at a later date.

North Miami Beach Resident Sentenced for Identity Theft
On November 3, 2016, in Miami, Florida, Vicky Egalite Pierre was sentenced to 36 months in prison for possessing of stolen identities. During a probation compliance check of Pierre’s residence, law enforcement located a notebook in her night stand that contained over 225 names, social security numbers and date of births. The notebook containing the personal identifying information was processed for latent prints, and six latent prints from various pages in the notebook belonged to the defendant. Law enforcement spoke with one individual whose name, date of birth, and Social security number were in the notebook, and confirmed that he/she did not authorize Pierre to be in possession of the personal identifying information. The defendant knew that the names, dates of birth, and social security numbers belonged to real persons.

Michigan Man Sentenced for Filing False Claims
On November 2, 2016, in Detroit, Michigan, Deandre Elliott, of Detroit, was sentenced to 24 months in prison and ordered to pay $183,099 in restitution to the IRS. Elliott was in possession of victims’ personal identifying information and he filed false tax returns using this information. Several victims testified they never authorized Elliott to file returns on their behalf and most were unaware tax returns were filed in their names. The fraudulent tax returns contained wages from employers for which the victims were never employed and other tax credits. Elliott sought to have the fraudulent refunds deposited into accounts under his control.

Two Florida Residents Sentenced for Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Scheme
On October 27, 2016, in Miami, Florida, Maurice Exavier, of Lauderhill, was sentenced to 145 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Carline Maurice was sentenced to 132 months in prison and three years of supervised release. The defendants were ordered to pay, joint and several, restitution of $1,265,611.  Exavier and Maurice acquired and used the personal identifying information of deceased individuals to file false tax returns with the IRS that contained fraudulent claims for refunds. Exavier and Maurice sought payment of the refunds as Refund Anticipation Checks (RACs), checks issued by a bank for the amount of a claimed refund, minus deductions for tax preparation and other service fees, if applicable. The RACs were then printed locally at a tax preparation company where a defendant had access or control. The refund checks were then deposited into a bank account controlled by Exavier and Maurice so the funds could be used by the conspirators for personal items.

Florida Mother and Daughter Sentenced for Stealing Tax Refunds and Identity Theft
On October 26, 2016, in Orlando, Florida, Derma Miller, of Sanford, was sentenced to 84 months in prison.  On October 4, 2016, also in Orlando, her mother, Virginia Miller, was sentenced to 61 months in prison. Both women were convicted for conspiracy to steal federal tax refunds and aggravated identity theft. As part of Derma Miller’s sentence, a money judgment was entered for $493,697, the proceeds of her criminal conduct. The Millers conspired to file false federal income tax returns using stolen personal identity information (PII), much of which belonged to individuals who were physically and mentally disabled, to obtain tax refunds from the Treasury Department. Virginia Miller prepared and filed the fraudulent returns using the stolen PII. She then directed the Internal Revenue Service to electronically deposit the fraudulent refunds into a bank account that Derma Miller controlled. The women withdrew the tax refunds in cash and made purchases for their own benefit and the benefit of others. During a two-year period, the Millers filed approximately 226 fraudulent tax returns and obtained $493,697 in fraudulent tax refunds from the Treasury Department.

Alabama Man Sentenced for Stealing Employee Information from Employer
On October 14, 2016, in Montgomery, Alabama, Kenneth Fearson of Phenix City, was sentenced to 24 months in prison for his role in a stolen identity refund fraud (SIRF) scheme. Fearson worked at a warehouse that contained employee Forms W-4s for a Columbus, Georgia, company.  Fearson assisted in selling the W-4s to other individuals, including Charnesha Alexander.  Alexander and others then used the information to prepare and file fraudulent tax returns. Alexander was previously sentenced to 111 months in prison.

Tennessee Resident Sentenced for Tax Fraud and Money Laundering
On October 12, 2016, in Knoxville, Tennessee, Mayra Edith Blair was sentenced to 37 months in prison and ordered to forfeit a money judgment in the amount of $2.5 million to the United States. Blair was part of a conspiracy that used phony identification documents to file fraudulent federal income tax returns in order to obtain tax refunds. The scheme resulted in the theft of more than $10.8 million from the U.S. taxpayers.

Florida Man Sentenced for Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Scheme
On October 6, 2016, in Tampa, Florida, Ledale Johnson of Bradenton, was sentenced to 39 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $57,415 to the IRS. From October 2011 through March 2012 Johnson conspired with others to file false tax returns that generated tax refunds, which were then downloaded onto prepaid debit cards in other people’s names, including deceased individuals. Johnson used the debit and prepaid cards to purchase money orders or to spend on personal items. On two separate occasions, Johnson was stopped by local law enforcement and found to be in possession of numerous fraudulent cards. Fraudulent income tax returns seeking refunds of more than $250,000 were filed, with nearly $58,000 obtained in illegal tax refunds.

Two Sentenced for Cashing Fraudulent Tax Refund Checks
On October 6, 2016, in Springfield, Massachusetts., Evelyn Manzueta was sentenced to 12 months in prison, three years of supervised released and ordered to pay $1,377,376 in restitution. On October 13, 2016, Manzueta’s brother-in-law, Robert Evans, of Wallkill, New York, was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay $517,714 in restitution. From January 2012 to May 2013, Manzueta orchestrated the cashing of 236 fraudulent tax refund checks. She cashed nearly $500,000 through her own accounts and enlisted friends and family members, including her brother-in-law Evans, to cash the remaining checks. Evans cashed $517,714 through his accounts. In total, $1,377,376 in fraudulent tax refunds were cashed through the scheme. The false tax returns used the names and social security numbers of real people living in Puerto Rico, their addresses were falsely listed as Massachusetts and New York. The tax returns also contained false employment information.

Florida Man Sentenced in Stolen Identity Tax Refund Fraud Conspiracy Involving Students and Other Individuals’ Personal Identifying Information
On October 3, 2016, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Oniel Winston Scarlett, of Belle Glade, was sentenced to 48 months in prison, two years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution of $188,570 for his participation in a stolen identity tax refund fraud conspiracy involving students and other individuals’ personal identifying information (PII). Scarlett and his co-conspirators fraudulently obtained and exchanged amongst themselves the PII of other individuals, filed fraudulent income tax returns with the IRS using the stolen PII, and directed fraudulent refunds to be deposited onto pre-paid debit cards in the names of other individuals using the stolen PII. Scarlett was in possession of stolen PII during a traffic stop on September 20, 2011. During the traffic stop, the FHP trooper conducted a consent search of Scarlett’s vehicle and found pre-paid debit cards; printouts of hundreds of peoples’ PII; laptop/notebook computers as well as bank account information, where it was later determined that nearly $77,000 in federal tax refunds were direct deposited from 52 separate fraudulent tax returns filed with the IRS. Scarlett admitted he had been recruited to help register pre-paid debit cards that were to be used to accept the fraudulent IRS refunds.  He also admitted his role in agreeing to accept money for his role in helping complete the crime.  Some of the PII was also used to file false tax returns with the IRS.  On the computer, law enforcement found 228 separate login user identifications used to file false income tax returns claiming approximately $290,000.


Fiscal Year 2016 - Examples of Identity Theft Investigations

Fiscal Year 2015 - Examples of Identity Theft Investigations
 


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