Had they been better at spelling, an Ohio man and woman accused of stealing more than 500 identities in a tax-fraud scheme might not have been caught.
Roma L. Sims of Westerville, and Samantha C. Towns of Reynoldsburg, were arrested last week on charges aggravated identity theft, conspiracy and wire fraud for using the identities to file tax returns and rake in $1.3 million.
But they misspelled several cities when they listed return addresses: Louieville and Pittsburg, according to the criminal complaint. Those geographic goofs caught the attention of investigators.
So did misspelling some of the occupations they listed on the phony tax returns. Yesterday, the two were released on their own recognizance until further hearings are set.
IRS special agent Lisa DiSalvo wrote in the complaint that the IRS Scheme Detection Center searches for refund fraud by looking at patterns of suspicious information, such as numerous refunds being sent to a single bank account and multiple tax returns filed electronically from one Internet address.
The complaint said that most of the victims are Kentucky residents on disability or other assistance. Many have disabled children.
The complaint said the refunds ranged from $1,532 to $5,591 and were automatically deposited into five or six local bank accounts. Many of the victims were unable to file their own 2011 tax returns because Sims and Towns already had filed returns in their names.
In one case, a parent and three children in Russell Springs, Ky., were homeless for two months because they could not get the tax refund they were counting on for living expenses, DiSalvo wrote.
In other cases, victims faced reduced disability payments because the bogus tax returns indicated that they had been working and collecting wages.
Sims and Towns stole identities by advertising on the Internet that they could obtain money for people if they provided their Social Security numbers and other personal information, according to authorities.
Sims, of Flagstone Square, and Towns, of John Steven Way, operated the scheme under the names Express Tax & Accounting and X-Press Taxes & Accounting Services, authorities said.
Copyright 2013 - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio