A yearlong investigation by local and federal law enforcement has resulted in 49 people being arrested and charged with stealing identities (social security numbers and date of birth) and using them to obtain fraudulent tax refunds.
In this white collar crime case, the suspects are alleged to have fraudulently filed for tax refunds, through online companies like Turbo Tax, using the social security numbers of people who had not (or not yet) filed. Unfortunately, one man whose social security number was used was a Tampa police lieutenant. When he tried to file his tax return, it was rejected, saying there was something wrong with his social security number.
He did not know that his social security number had been fraudulently used until a narcotics officer broke up a hotel party at which drugs were present. It was then that law enforcement learned that people were teaching classes on techniques to file false tax returns and that there were hotel gatherings dedicated to filing fraudulent tax returns – called drop parties.
Some of the people arrested at the parties admitted filing fake tax returns using another’s social security number but told police they didn’t think it was a crime.
Several businesses were searched and are suspected of being used for money laundering purposes. Nearly $400,000 in assets were seized from these business interests.
Nearly 10,000 fraudulent refunds worth $100,000 million were intercepted. Over the course of the yearlong effort, police have recovered nearly $5 million in refunds, cash, jewels, cars and entertainment systems. Some $25 million has not yet been recovered.
Source: TampaBay.com, “49 accused of tax fraud and identity theft,” by Robbyn Mitchell, September 2, 2011.