The FBI, Secret Service and local police are cracking down on tax refund frauds and ID thefts related to taxes.
In Miami on Wednesday, 14 defendants in six separate cases were charged for taking part scams that involved thousands of stolen identities that were used to submit millions of dollars in fraudulent tax refund claims. The FBI said the cases reaffirm the joint federal and local commitment, first announced in October 2012, to crack down on stolen identity refund fraud (SIRF) and its perpetrators.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, Florida had the highest rate of identity theft in the United States in 2011. Floridas rate of 178 complaints per 100,000 residentsthe highest in the United Statesis dwarfed by the Miami rate of 324.1 complaints per 100,000 residents.
A September 2012 report by the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) determined that Florida has the highest rate of stolen identity refund fraud in the United States. In the city of Miami, the per capita number of false returns based on identity theft was 46 times the national average, and its per capita SIRF fraud dollar value was more than 70 times the national average.
"Identity theft tax refund fraud has spread through South Florida like a virus," said U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer. Since the creation of the strike force, the U.S. Attorneys Office has charged 113 defendants responsible for approximately $92 million in stolen identity refund fraud. "We will continue to crack down on identity thieves who are lining their pockets with our tax dollars by stealing the personal identification information of others."
Identity theft is a serious crime that victimizes honest taxpayers and causes immense hardship, said Richard Weber, Chief, IRS-Criminal Investigation. Todays actions should serve as a warning that we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorneys office to hold accountable those individuals who undermine our income tax system by filing false claims for refunds.
Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Paula Reid stated, "The U.S. Secret Service will continue to work with the U.S. Attorneys Office, Internal Revenue Service, and our law enforcement partners in the south Florida region to combat this crime that is impacting the lives of so many innocent people. Together, we will strive to identify offenders but, most importantly, safeguard our communities against this harsh violation that is compromising the financial status of so many hard-working, honest efforts."
Using stolen identities to fraudulently claim income tax refunds is a growing epidemic in Florida. In the city of Miami alone, the per capita number of false returns from identity theft was 46 times the national average, said Michael B. Steinbach, Acting Special Agent in Charge of FBI Miami. The FBI is actively targeting these fraudsters who seek illicit gains by victimizing hard-working taxpayers.
The cases announced today include:
1. United States v. Nael Dawud Sammour
Defendant Nael Dawud Sammour was indicted on eight counts of theft of public money, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 641, and two counts of aggravated identity theft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1028A, for his role in attempting to negotiate 75 fraudulently obtained U.S. Treasury tax refund checks totaling $750,369.45. According to the charges, unknown individuals used stolen identification information, including the names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers of unsuspecting taxpayers, to fraudulently apply for and receive tax refunds to which they were not entitled. Thereafter, defendant Sammour obtained many of these fraudulently obtained U.S. Treasury tax refund checks and transferred these checks, along with counterfeit drivers licenses and Social Security cards, to undercover IRS agents posing as check cashers. When the defendant was arrested, law enforcement located and seized $30,128.24. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Anton.