A Westbury man, who authorities said was the leader of a Nassau County-based tax fraud ring, was sentenced Thursday to serve up to three years in prison after pleading guilty to a felony fraud charge, according to state tax officials.
The Dec. 5 sentence leaves Christopher Curry, 40, faces 1 1/2 to 3 years in prison. He has also agreed to repay nearly $65,000 after pleading guilty to a felony charge of first-degree scheme to defraud following his arrest in a joint investigation by state tax investigators and the Nassau County district attorney’s office.
Authorities said Curry had been the ringleader of the scheme that led to nine other people being criminally charged, all of whom, according to authorities, “willingly filed fraudulent tax returns.” Curry was alleged to have approached dozens of people, offering them cash to be part of the scheme.
Prosecutors said he would ask for their social security number to file a fake tax return and then promised them that if he received a refund, he’d give them a percentage. The criminal cases against the nine other defendants charged in what authorities dubbed “Operation Refund Racket,” are still ongoing.
“I commend District Attorney Rice for her continuing effort to bring those involved in this ring to justice,” said Thomas Maddox, the state’s taxation and finance commissioner. “These arrests happened at the right time.”
Investigators have said they discovered Curry and his co-conspirators filed more than 30 phony tax returns and that those documents contained fake employer information and incorrect or inflated wages. In many instances found by the investigators, the tax filings had fabricated W-2 forms.
The crew is also alleged to have submitted income tax returns using stolen identifies of nursing home patients and prisoners.
Investigators said Curry and his alleged accomplices were paid more than $60,000 through state and federal tax refunds. The money was loaded onto prepaid debit cards and then used to buy money orders.
The ring was uncovered in February 2012 after a federal postal inspector became suspicious after noticing there were an unusually high number of money orders being purchased with prepaid debit cards at a post office in Hempstead.