Late Tuesday, Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Antonio J. Gomez, Acting Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Miami Division, and Sergio Velazquez, Chief, Hialeah Police Department, announced that Lineten Belizaire has entered a guilty plea for his role in a stolen identity tax refund scheme.
Belizaire, 22, of Miami Gardens, pled guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to claims and one count of aggravated identity theft. Sentencing is scheduled for May 28, 2013 at 8:30 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga.
At sentencing, Belizaire faces a possible statutory maximum sentence of up to 12 years in federal prison.
In the public eye before his federal indictment, Belizaire was charged last August with the Lauderdale Lakes killings of two women and a baby. Out on bond awaiting trial in Broward County, he has pled not guilty to the January shooting deaths of Octavia Barnett, 21; Natasha Plummer, 25; and Plummer’s 6-month-old boy, Carlton Stringer Jr.
The murder prosecution was unrelated to Belizaire’s federal indictment, which accused him and three partners of submitting hundreds of bogus tax refund claims totaling $1 million and requesting payments be made on pre-paid debit cards.
According to plea documents, beginning in mid-2011 and 2012, Belizaire was allegedly involved in a scheme to use stolen personal identification information of others to file fraudulent and unauthorized tax returns claiming refunds on debit cards. Among the allegations were that he exchanged personal identification information of victims by text message for use in the tax refund fraud scheme.
During a traffic stop conducted on January 31, 2012, law enforcement officers found notebooks and papers containing personal information on more than 1,000 victims and approximately 40 prepaid debit cards, including some of the identities exchanged by Belizaire. In addition, more than 80 fraudulent tax returns using stolen identifications were electronically filed from an IP address belonging to the defendant. The defendant was also observed on ATM video withdrawing money on multiple occasions from debit cards loaded with fraudulent tax refunds.
During the press conference, U.S. Attorney Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Identity Theft Tax Refund Strike Force, with special commendation to IRS-CI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Hialeah Police Department. The case on behalf of the government was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael N. Berger.