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25 charged in identity theft and tax fraud scam

25 charged in identity theft and tax fraud scam
25 charged in identity theft and tax fraud scam
U.S. Department of Justice

Identity theft and tax return identity theft charges were announced Thursday against 25 defendants in 19 separate cases, according to United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Wifredo A. Ferrer.

Dealing with thousands of stolen identities and millions of dollars of fraudulent identity theft tax filings, the charges filed reaffirmed the joint federal and local commitment to crack-down on stolen identity tax refund fraud (SIRF) perpetrators.

Florida - according to the Federal Trade Commission - had the highest rate of identity theft in the nation last year. It had a rate of 192.9 complaints per 100,000 residents – the highest in the United States .

While identity theft in Florida ranks highest in the United States, the identity theft rate in Miami has reached near epidemic proportions - with a rate of 340.4 complaints per 100,000 residents.

In an attempt to combat the rising wave of stolen identity tax refund scams and armed with recent directives from the Department of Justice’s Tax Division making prosecutions faster and easier, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida established the South Florida Identity Theft Tax Fraud Strike Force (Strike Force) in August 2012.

The members of the Strike Force include the United States Attorney’s Office, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Miami Field Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Miami Field Office, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Miami Division, Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General, Aventura Police Department, North Miami Beach Police Department, Miami-Dade Police Department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, Miami Field Office, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Miami Field Division, Town of Davie Police Department, Florida Highway Patrol, Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Broward Sheriff’s Office, Ft. Lauderdale Police Department, Coconut Creek Police Department, Sunrise Police Department, Coral Springs Police Department, Miramar Police Department and North Miami Police Department.

Since the inception of the Strike Force, 296 defendants - responsible for approximately $485.5 million in intended stolen identity refund fraud loss and in excess of $106 million in actual SIRF fraud loss - have been charged in federal court.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the IRS have also attacked this problem by revoking “electronic filing identity numbers” or EFIN numbers, which allow individuals to file tax returns on behalf of others. Before revoking these EFIN numbers, SIRF fraudsters had used them to file 166,495 fraudulent tax refund claims over the past two years.

“The number of stolen identities and the dollar amount of the tax fraud involved in these cases is staggering," stated United States Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer. "These cases serve as a reminder that each and every one of us is a potential victim. While we have a talented and effective team dedicated to fight this fraud, we need everyone – both taxpayers and institutions – to remain vigilant in safeguarding personal identifying information. Protect it as if it were a trade secret.”

U.S. Attorney Ferrer - joined by members of the Strike Force on Thursday - announced the most recent results of their investigative efforts. The cases include:

1. United States v. Rhim-Grant, et al., Case No. 14-20181-Cr-Lenard. United States v. Nydia Tanay Laron Nelson, Case No. 14-2375-mj-Goodman

On March 21, 2014, Pamela Rhim-Grant, 40, and Eugene Moss, 33, both of Miami, were charged by information in a scheme to steal identities for the purpose of conducting stolen identity fraud.

On April 1, 2014, Nydia Tanay Laron Nelson, 30, of Miami, was charged by criminal complaint in connection with the same scheme.

According to the criminal complaint, the defendants conspired to steal the identities of Miami-Dade Public Schools students by exploiting Rhim-Grant’s access to the student information computer database as a food service manager at Horace Mann Middle School. Over the course of more than a year approximately 400 student identities were stolen from across the Miami-Dade County Public Schools district, resulting in numerous fraudulent tax returns.

The information and complaint charge the defendants with conspiracy to commit computer fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI, IRS-CI, and the Miami-Dade Schools Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Maderal.

“Criminals all over South Florida are turning to computers to make an easy buck at the public’s expense,” said George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Miami. “Identity theft, the fastest growing crime here, is as easy as one, two, three. One, criminals steal someone’s name and social security number; two, they use that identity to file a fraudulent tax return on line; and three, they collect the refund check. Repeat thousands of times. Don’t become a victim, learn how you can protect your personal identifying information from these thieves at FBI.GOV or FTC.GOV.”

2. United States v. Marlon Maikel Palacios, Case No. 14-20121-Cr-Cooke

On February 28, 2014, Marlon Maikel Palacios, 38, of North Miami, was charged in a twelve count indictment for his participation in a conspiracy to defraud the government and mail theft.

According to the indictment, the defendant, a former mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, provided to his co-conspirators addresses on his mail routes used with filing false tax returns with the IRS, receiving IRS correspondence, and tax refund checks. The defendant would then identify and pull the IRS correspondence and refund checks, for which the defendant would be paid. With the IRS correspondence, the defendant’s co-conspirators would file false, fictitious, and fraudulent federal income tax returns and thereafter claim refunds to which they were not entitled from the IRS.

The indictment charges the defendant with conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to federal income tax refunds and theft of mail by a postal employee.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the USPS-OIG, USPIS, ICE-HSI, and IRS-CI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andy R. Camacho.

“U.S. Postal Service employees are honest, hardworking, and trustworthy, but when a Postal Service employee engages in criminal activity, our Special Agents will investigate those matters vigorously, as we did in this case,” says Max Eamiguel, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General.

3. United States v. Rodelyn Lamour and Nestor Armando Herrera, Case No. 14-20169-Cr-Martinez

On March 14, 2014, Rodelyn Lamour, 26, and Nestor Armando Ficquire Herrera, 22, of Miami, were charged in a seven count indictment for their participation in a conspiracy to steal mail and a stolen identity tax refund scheme.

According to the indictment, the defendants used a stolen postal service key to open various apartment complex mailboxes and steal mail containing debit cards. The debit cards contained refunds from fraudulent federal income tax returns filed using stolen identities. The defendants then used the stolen debit cards to obtain cash, without the knowledge or authorization of the identity theft victims. The intended loss to the IRS was approximately $39,000.

The indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy, theft of mail, use of a postal service key, unauthorized use of personal identification information, and aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of USPIS. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Vanessa Snyder.

Ronald Verrochio, Inspector in Charge for Postal Inspection Service stated, “Tax return fraud directly affects millions of Americans each year and indirectly affects every tax payer throughout the country, we are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to combat this problem.”

4. United States v. Paul Evans Auguste, Case No. 14-80087-Cr-Scola

On February 12, 2014, Paul Evans Auguste, 30, of Miami, was charged in a seven-count indictment for his participation in a stolen identity tax refund scheme.

According to the criminal complaint, Auguste sold approximately 260 stolen identities to an undercover law enforcement officer and stated that he could provide the undercover law enforcement officer any types of identities he would want, including those of children and the elderly. Auguste also stated his intention to conduct tax fraud with the multitude of stolen identities he maintained at his residence. Law enforcement obtained a federal search warrant for Auguste’s residence which revealed an additional 1,200 stolen identities in his possession.

The defendant was charged with access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of ICE-HSI and IRS-CI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Maderal.

5. United States v. Freddie Howard, Case No. 14-60068-Cr-Rosenbaum

On April 1, 2014, Freddie Howard, 56, of Davie, was charged in a one-count information in a stolen identity refund fraud scheme that involved the submission of approximately $22 million in fraudulent refund claims.

According to the information, Howard operated a tax preparation business called QTS1, Inc. (Quality Tax Service) in Broward County. Howard prepared false and fraudulent tax returns using the identity information of willing participants and stolen identity information. Howard used false and fictitious income and withholding tax information on the returns submitted to the IRS to justify fraudulent large-dollar refund requests. The requested refund amounts generally ranged from $60,000 to $1,400,000, and Howard typically requested payment of these refunds via U.S. Treasury tax refund check. To conceal his identity, Howard submitted the tax returns to the IRS by mail and did not include preparer information. Howard also blocked out the tax preparer software information, and used other people to contact the IRS to inquire about the status of the fraudulent returns.

According to the information, Freddie Howard submitted over $22 million in false and fraudulent tax refund claims to the IRS. The IRS paid approximately $4.5 million on these refund requests.

The defendant was charged with access device fraud and identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Strike Force, with special commendation to the FBI and IRS-CI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael N. Berger.

IRS Special Agent in Charge José A. Gonzalez stated, “Today’s announcement should send a message to those who might consider disguising themselves as legitimate tax return preparers or Electronic Filing Identification Number (EFIN) holders for the purpose of submitting false claims with the IRS. Protecting the integrity of our U.S. tax system is essential, therefore, those who chose to corrupt this system will be investigated and brought to justice, regardless of their level of participation in the fraud.”

6. United States v. Anthony A. Pace, Jr., et al., Case No. 14-20101-Cr-Moore/Torres

On February 18, 2014, Anthony A. Pace, Jr., 29, Brandon A. Terry, 29, Derel L. Henry, 39, and Rosa Johnson, 26, all of Miami, were charged in a twenty-three count indictment for their participation in a $3.3 million stolen identity tax refund scheme.

According to the indictment, the defendants obtained personal identifying information, including names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers, of hundreds of identity theft victims, for use in this identity theft tax fraud scheme. The defendants used this stolen personal identity information, including personal identity information of former and current inmates of the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Program, to file false and fraudulent federal income tax returns without their victims’ knowledge and authorization. Based on Internet Protocal data and a unique tax filing number issued by the IRS called an EFIN, each of the defendants filed false and fraudulent tax returns using stolen identities and directed the IRS to deposit the funds into bank accounts and onto debit cards accessible to the members of the scheme.

According to disclosures at bond hearings, Anthony A. Pace, Jr. was employed as a correctional officer with the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Program. False and fraudulent tax returns were filed in the names of former and current prisoners using an EFIN associated with defendant Pace. These same tax filings directed payment of the illicit tax refund proceeds into accounts controlled by Pace and Johnson. ATM video reveals that Pace was withdrawing funds from the accounts into which the illicit funds were deposited.

The indictment charges all of the defendants with conspiracy to make false claims, in violation of 18 U.S.C. ' 286 and aggravated identity theft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. ' 1028A, defendants Brandon Terry and Derel Henry with access device fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. ' 1029, and defendants Anthony Pace and Rosa Johnson with theft of government property, in violation of 18 U.S.C. ' 641.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI, FBI and USSS. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter A. Forand.

7. United States v. Judes Stanley Celestin, Case No. 13-60243-Cr-Scola

On September 27, 2013, Judes Stanely Celestin, 36, of Hallandale Beach, was charged in a sixteen-count indictment in a stolen identity refund fraud scheme that resulted in the submission of approximately $1 million in fraudulent refund claims.

According to the indictment, Celestin set up Florida corporations (JC Easy Tax and Taxes on Time) with himself as the president and then opened up bank accounts at numerous different banks from 2010 through 2012 in the name of these corporations. Celestin subsequently caused false and fraudulent tax returns to be filed with the IRS in the names of individuals without these individuals’ knowledge or authority. In total, Celestin caused approximately $1 million dollars in tax refund monies to be direct deposited to these bank accounts and related bank accounts from 2010 through 2012 and then withdrew the money for his own personal use.

The defendant was charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Strike Force, with special commendation to IRS-CI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael N. Berger.

8. United States v. Karl Moltimer, Case No. 14-20117-Cr-Altonaga

On February 27, 2014, Karl Moltimer, 34, of Miami, was charged in a fourteen-count indictment in a stolen identity tax refund fraud scheme that resulted in the submission of over $1 million in fraudulent refund claims.

According to the indictment, Moltimer obtained EFIN numbers that permitted him to file tax returns in the names of other persons. Moltimer opened bank accounts for himself and his business name. Moltimer, through his EFINs, caused false and fraudulent tax returns seeking refunds to be filed with the IRS using stolen individuals’ personal identity information. Moltimer caused the fraudulently obtained tax refunds to be either deposited into bank accounts controlled by him, paid via refund anticipation checks controlled by him, or paid via pre-paid debit cards controlled by him. Moltimer caused over one million dollars in false and fraudulent tax refund claims to be submitted to the IRS from 2009 through 2012 through his EFINs.

The defendant was charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Strike Force, with special commendation to IRS-CI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael N. Berger.

9. United States v. Marlon Hamilton, Case No. 14-20175-Cr-Moreno

On March 18, 2014, Marlon Hamilton, 40, of Hialeah, was charged in a six count indictment for his participation in a stolen identity tax refund scheme.

According to the indictment, the defendant obtained and sold the personal identifying information of numerous identity theft victims, including their names, dates of birth, and social security numbers, to an individual who intended to utilize the information to electronically file false, fictitious, and fraudulent federal income tax returns without the knowledge or authorization of the identity theft victims, and thereafter claim refunds to which they were not entitled from the IRS. The intended loss to the IRS was approximately $190,000. The indictment charges the defendant with unauthorized possession of personal identification information and aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Vanessa Snyder.

10. United States v. Marcus Braxton, Case No. 14-20174-Cr-Ungaro

On March 18, 2014, Marcus Braxton, 29, of Plantation, was charged in a six count indictment for his participation in a stolen identity tax refund scheme.

According to the indictment, the defendant obtained and sold the personal identifying information of numerous identity theft victims, including their names, dates of birth, and social security numbers, to an individual who intended to utilize the information to electronically file false, fictitious, and fraudulent federal income tax returns without the knowledge or authorization of the identity theft victims, and thereafter claim refunds to which they were not entitled from the IRS. The intended loss to the IRS was approximately $58,500.

The indictment charges the defendant with unauthorized possession of personal identification information and aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Vanessa Snyder.

11. United States v. Richard Anthony Siler, Case No. 14-20116-Cr-Williams

On February 27, 2014, Richard Anthony Siler, 50, of Hollywood, was charged in a nine-count indictment in a stolen identity refund fraud scheme that involved the sale of over 5,000 people’s identities.

According to the indictment and other documents filed in court, Siler discussed selling approximately 10,000 to 15,000 identities to a confidential source who told Siler that the identities would be used to file taxes. Siler indicated to the confidential source that these identities were “never revealed before.” Siler discussed selling the 10,000 to 15,000 identities to the confidential source for approximately $6,200. On February 14, 2014, an FBI controlled e-mail account received an e-mail from Richard Siler containing approximately 5,200 individuals’ personal identifying information that appeared to be patients. On that same date, the confidential source provided Siler with $6,200 in currency and Siler was arrested.

The defendant was charged with access device fraud and identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Strike Force, with special commendation to the FBI and IRS-CI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael N. Berger.

12. United States v. Giovanni Francois Noel, Case No. 14-20198-Cr-Moore

On March 28, 2014, Giovanni Francois Noel, 24, of North Miami Beach, was charged in an eight count indictment for his participation in an identity theft tax refund scheme.

According to the indictment, the defendant possessed the social security numbers of at least fifteen individuals. The indictment also alleges that the defendant stole the means of identification, specifically, the name and date of birth, of seven individuals.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Strike Force, with special commendation to the IRS-CI and the NMBPD. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John R. Byrne.

U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Paula Reid added, “Once again, the U.S. Secret Service is glad to be an integral part of combatting this massive fraudulent scheme that is plaguing South Florida. Together, we will continue to identify and penalize those who misuse our government systems with no regard to the financial and unjust impacts they cause on others.”

13. United States v. Wallens B. Alcime, Case No. 14-02372-mj-Goodman

On April 1, 2014, Wallens B. Alcime, 26, of Miami, was charged by criminal complaint for his participation in a stolen identity tax refund scheme.

According to the criminal complaint, a confidential source informed law enforcement that Alcime was using the mailing addresses of accomplices to receive stolen identity tax refunds deposited onto pre-paid debit cards. A controlled delivery was arranged where Alcime took possession of a debit card loaded with stolen identity tax refunds while under law enforcement surveillance. Alcime was later captured on surveillance video making cash withdrawals from the debit card.

The defendant was charged with access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and IRS-CI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Maderal.

14. United States v. Steven Toussaint, et al., Case No. 14-20161-Cr-Martinez

On March 14, 2014, Steven Toussaint, 32, and Emmanuel Alphonse, 28, both of Miami, were charged by indictment in a scheme to launder money from stolen identity tax refund fraud.

According to the indictment, the defendants conspired to conduct financial transactions the purpose of which was to conceal the proceeds of theft from the government. Each defendant is also charged with ten counts of money laundering connected to individual money orders cashed on various dates alleged in the indictment.

The complaint charges the defendants with conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of USPIS and IRS-CI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Maderal.

15. United States v. Mark Anthony Dacres, Jr., Case No. 14-20204-Cr-Ungaro

On April 1, 2014, Mark Anthony Dacres, Jr., 30, of Homestead, was charged in a seven-count indictment for identity theft in connection with his unauthorized possession of at least fifteen social security numbers belonging to other individuals. Dacres was found with over 1,700 names, dates of birth and social security numbers of other individuals.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Strike Force, with special commendation to IRS-CI and USSS. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gera Peoples.

16. United States v. Providencia Llanos, Case No. 14-20205-Cr-Lenard

On April 1, 2014, Providencia Llanos, a/k/aProvidensia Llanos,” a/k/aProvidencia Allison,” 36, of Miami Gardens was charged in a seven-count indictment for identity theft in connection with her unauthorized possession of at least fifteen social security numbers belonging to other individuals. Llanos was found with over 3,000 names, dates of birth and social security numbers of other individuals.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Strike Force, with special commendation to IRS-CI and USSS. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gera Peoples.

17. United States v. Stevens Nore, Case No. 14-14016-Cr-Middlebrooks

On March 24, 2014, Stevens Nore, 35, of Port St. Lucie, was charged in a twenty-eight count indictment for his participation in tax fraud and identity theft schemes.

According to the indictment, from June 11, 2009 through April 2012, Nore owned and operated Fraternity Tax and Services, a tax return preparation business located in Fort Pierce. Nore prepared and submitted Individual Tax Returns (Forms 1040), with accompanying schedules, to the IRS on behalf of taxpayers claiming false deductions and credits for tax years 2009 to 2011. Nore also filed false tax returns for 2010 and 2011 by falsely stating the amount of gross receipts and sales on Schedule C forms. The defendant stole three tax refunds totaling $26,349.30 to which he was not entitled, and used the identity of two individuals without their permission.

Nore was charged with twenty-one counts of preparing false tax returns, two counts of filing false tax returns, three counts of theft of public money, and two counts of aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Shaniek Maynard.

18. United States v. Rony Maurival, Case No. 14-14014-Cr-Middlebrooks

On March 24, 2014, Rony Maurical, 38, of Port St. Lucie, was charged in fifty-two count indictment for his participation in tax fraud and identity theft schemes.

According to the indictment, from July 3, 2008 through March 23, 2012, Maurival owned and operated RJ’s Tax & Services, a tax return preparation business located in Fort Pierce. Maurival prepared and submitted Individual Tax Returns (Forms 1040), with accompanying schedules, to the IRS on behalf of taxpayers claiming false deductions and credits for tax years 2008 to 2011. Maurival also filed false tax returns for 2009 and 2010 by falsely claiming Head of Household and falsely stating Schedule C income, gross receipts, and sales. The defendant stole three tax refunds totaling $3,292 to which he was not entitled, and used the identity of three individuals without their permission.

Maurival was charged with forty-four counts of preparing false tax returns, two counts of filing false tax returns, three counts of theft of public money, and three counts of aggravated identity theft.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell R. Killinger.

Alysa D. Erichs, Special Agent in Charge for ICE-HSI stated, “Homeland Security Investigations utilizes its vast authorities to work with their partners to disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations involved in tax refund fraud schemes and other financial violations that affect our citizens and economy.”

If convicted, the defendants face a possible maximum statutory sentence of twenty years in prison for each count of wire fraud; ten years in prison for conspiracy to make false claims against the United States; five to fifteen years in prison for access device fraud; ten years in prison for stealing government funds; and two years in prison consecutive to any other term for aggravated identity theft.

An indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.