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Lakeland, Florida, man sentenced for identity theft and fraud

Good recordkeeping may have been the undoing of a Polk County man recently sentenced to federal prison for fraud. On March 7, the 50-year-old Lakeland, Florida, man pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft for his role in a tax-fraud scheme which netted around $400,000 in illicit proceeds.

According to the terms of the plea deal, the man was sentenced to seven years in federal prison and must forfeit $14, 952 which police seized from his home on a March 21, 2012, raid of his residence. Additionally, the U.S. District Judge who sentenced the man ordered the forfeiture of what was determined to be traceable proceeds of the fraud activity. That amount is $325,886, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida.

Documents filed with the court say that the defendant and his accomplices stole the personally identifying information from multiple victims and used that knowledge to submit electronically fraudulent tax returns in their victim's names. Then, the co-conspirators would convert those refunds onto reloadable debit cards to enable them to spend the stolen funds.

The Polk County Sherriff's Office, working in connection with federal agents, began an investigation into the tax-fraud scheme back in 2012 which resulted in the arrest of the defendant as well as 24 others. Police say the tax-fraud scheme ran between August 2011 through June 4, 2012. They also say a number of the defendant's victims lived in nursing homes. Police say the ring maintained thoroughly detailed ledgers which kept good track of the social security numbers, birthdays, passwords and other crucial information belonging to their victims.

Criminal defendants charged with identity theft need to know that they have constitutionally protected rights. Despite what the police or prosecutors might tell them, defendants always have a right to challenge evidence and testimony presented against them at trial.

Additionally, defendants should know that an experienced attorney can assist them in negotiating a plea agreement with prosecutors in many situations. Depending on the circumstances of their case, a plea agreement with favorable terms might be a better outcome for the defendant than the alternative of going to trial.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, "Polk man sentenced to 7 years for stealing IDs, filing phony tax returns" Kevin P. Connolly, Jun. 09, 2014

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