Two sentenced in identity theft tax refund fraud scheme involving thousands of patients’ personal identity information


IRS warns against tax return identity theft scams
IRS warns against tax return identity theft scams

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, announced late Friday that Michael Ali Bryant, Sr., and his wife, Latina Rashawn Bryant, both of Lauderdale Lakes, were sentenced for their participation in a stolen identity tax refund scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.

Michael Bryant, 41, was sentenced to 144 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.  Latina Bryant, 43, was sentenced to 48 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.

Having previously pled guilty to one count of aggravated identity theft, Michael Bryant also pled guilty to one count of possession of fifteen or more unauthorized access devices.

Latina Bryant previously pled guilty to one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of using an unauthorized access device.

Co-defendant Marquis Onigirin Moye, 24, of Pompano Beach, was sentenced on March 28, 2014 to 54 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.  Moye previously pled guilty to one count of possession of fifteen or more unauthorized access devices, and one count of aggravated identity theft.

Co-defendants Tiffany Shenae Cooper, 33, of Deerfield Beach, and Angela Dione Rosier, 41, of Coral Springs, were sentenced on February 28, 2014.  Cooper was sentenced to 57 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Rosier was sentenced to 49 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.   The court also ordered both defendants to pay $129,390.06 in restitution to the IRS and the medical services provider whose database had been breached.

Cooper previously pled guilty to one count of possession of fifteen or more unauthorized access devices and one count of aggravated identity theft.  Rosier previously pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit access device fraud.

According to court records, a confidential source initially approached Michael Bryant and inquired about purchasing narcotics.  Bryant told the operative that he did not have any narcotics but that he did have personal identity information that he was willing to sell.  A controlled purchase of approximately 230 names was made.

Bryant instructed the operative on how to commit tax fraud and provided specific instructions on what information to enter into the web pages of the internet-based tax services to obtain a tax refund.

An examination of the records revealed that they were from a medical services provider.

Rosier was an employee of the medical services provider.  Cooper spoke to Rosier to obtain user names and passwords for current employees of the medical services provider.  Cooper admitted to illegally logging on to the medical services provider’s computer network and downloading personal information for the purpose of committing various types of fraud.  She was assisted in her activities by Rosier and co-defendant Moye.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and IRS-CI.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia R. Wood.

Eight charged in identity theft fraud scheme involving AT&T customer files


Eight charged in identity theft fraud scheme involving AT&T customer files
Eight charged in identity theft fraud scheme involving AT&T customer files

Eight defendants have been charged with participating in a conspiracy to unjustly enrich themselves by stealing personal identifying information and using the information to make unauthorized wire transfers from victim bank accounts and obtaining unauthorized credit or debit cards, according to BankInfoSecurity.com on Monday.

Collectively named in a twenty-two count federal indictment were Chouman Emily Syrilien, 25, of Lauderdale Lakes, Arrington Basil Segu, 28, of Miami, Carlos Antonio Alexander, 24, of Orlando, Angel Arcos, 23, of Pompano Beach, Shantegra La’Shae Godfrey, 23, of Deerfield Beach, and Monique Smith, 31, of Pompano Beach.

Two unnamed defendants remain at large.

Each of the defendant’s was charged with one count of conspiracy and several defendants were charged individually with access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.

According to the indictment, Syrilien was employed by Interactive Response Technologies, lnc. (IRT) of Margate. IRT provides staffing for call centers to handle direct sales and customer inquiries for AT&T.  Syrilien unlawfully provided a co-conspirator with the personal identifying information from multiple AT&T customer files. Segu also unlawfully provided personal identifying information of numerous individuals to the co-conspirator.

Alexander, Godfrey, and Smith were added as “authorized users” on victims’ credit or debit card accounts or bank accounts.  This was done in order to access the accounts of victims whose personal identifying information had been stolen.

Once a conspirator’s name was added as an “authorized user,” the bank and/or credit card company was directed to mail additional debit or credit cards bearing the names of these newly added “authorized users” to their addresses or addresses under their control.  This was done without the true account holder’s knowledge or consent.

The defendants used these credit and debit cards to make purchases or obtain money.  Alexander, Smith and Godfrey each made both retail purchases as well as cash advances in excess of $24,000, $12,000 and $8,200, respectively.

Defendant Arcos allowed his personal information to be used to open a bank account to further the fraudulent activity.

AT&T customers who may have been impacted should immediately protect themselves from potential identity theft.

Periodically review your credit report

By keeping close tabs on your credit report, you can detect signs of identity theft early. If you find an account not opened by you and have identified it as fraudulent, enter a dispute directly with the creditor as well as with the credit reporting agencies of EquifaxExperian and TransUnion.

You can obtain a free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com or 877-322-8228.

Place a 90-day initial fraud alert on your credit report

Contact the credit reporting agencies and request a 90-day initial fraud alert on your credit report. Not only will this trigger a free credit report but will advise potential creditors to investigate any application prior to issuing credit, goods, benefits and/or services.

Equifax can be contacted at 800-525-6285, Experian at 888-397-3742 and Trans Union at 800-916-8800. Be sure to renew the alert every three months.

Freeze your credit report

Identity thieves are frozen in their tracks without access to your credit report as potential creditors will not have access to your credit history. In most states, you are entitled to temporarily “freeze” access to your credit profile without cost if you are over 65 years of age or are a verified victim of identity theft. All others may be required to pay a small fee.

Without access to your credit report, a responsible lender will not issue credit.

Stop unsolicited credit card offers

Opting out at www.optoutprescreen.com or 888-5OPT-OUT will stop most unsolicited pre-approved applications and reduce the incidence of identity theft. Opting out refers to the process of removing your name and address from lists supplied by the Equifax, Experian, Trans Union and Innovis credit reporting agencies to be used for firm (preapproved/ prescreened) offers of credit or insurance.

If convicted, each of the defendants face a maximum of thirty years in federal prison for the conspiracy charge, a maximum of ten years in prison for the access device fraud charge, and a mandatory term of two years in prison for each aggravated identity theft charge, at least one of which must be served consecutive to any other term in prison.

An indictment is only an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

As a nationally recognized credit repair and identity theft expert, Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.

25 charged in identity theft and tax fraud scam


IRS warns against tax return identity theft scams
IRS warns against tax return identity theft scams

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/a “Providensia Llanos,” a/k/a “Providencia 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.

As a nationally recognized credit repair and identity theft expert, Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.

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

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 FloridaWifredo 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. PaceJr., et al., Case No. 14-20101-Cr-Moore/Torres

On February 18, 2014, Anthony A. PaceJr., 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 Toussaintet 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 DacresJr., 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 Llanosa/k/a “Providensia Llanos,” a/k/a “Providencia 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.

Target data breach – free credit monitoring and identity theft insurance


William E. Lewis Jr, Target Data Breach
Target data breach results in free credit monitoring for all customers

Expect more, pay less has brought new meaning as Target announced this week how shoppers can enroll in a free credit monitoring and identity theft protection service in the wake of a massive data heist.

According to a specially dedicated website, the retailer will offer customers the service for one year.

Target customers can register for the service — regardless whether they have been personally affected by the theft of customer data records at the discount store chain.

Step-by-step instructions on how to enroll in the Target credit monitoring program.

The announcement comes after Target revealed last week that the massive security breach may have affected up to 110 million of its customers during the holiday shopping season and included more types of confidential information than previously disclosed.

Target had previously reported that about 40 million credit and debit cards may have been affected by the breach that occurred between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15.

“I know that it is frustrating for our guests to learn that this information was taken and we are truly sorry they are having to endure this,” stated Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and chief executive officer for Target in a written statement. “I also want our guests to know that understanding and sharing the facts related to this incident is important to me and the entire Target team.”

While continuing to investigate, Target now indicates that an additional 70 million customers were impacted by the theft of their names, phone numbers, and email and mailing addresses. Some of the information stolen in the data breach belonged to customers who shopped before the holiday season.

“They all claim to care about protecting us from identity theft, but their very similar privacy policies don’t appear to support these claims,” stated Denise Richardson, herself a victim of identity theft and author of “Give Me Back My Credit.” “It’s difficult to believe they are as interested in protecting our personal info as they are in protecting their business model in an ecosystem comprised of undisclosed partners, affiliates, vendors, alliances, resellers and contractors who, along with any other undisclosed third party they warn they buy, sell or share our data with.”

Surpassing an incident uncovered in 2007 that saw more than 45 million credit and debit cards stolen from Marshalls and T.J. Maxx, the Target data breach is the largest reported ever for a retailer.

“Within a day of enrolling in the credit monitoring service, I received details to check my credit,” Remington Longstreth, a frequent Target shopper told Examiner. “I’m going to use this service to supplement what I already have to protect my good name and reputation in the community.”

In addition to the Target credit monitoring service, impacted customers may also protect themselves from potential identity theft.

Periodically review your credit report

By keeping close tabs on your credit report, you can detect signs of identity theft early. If you find an account not opened by you and have identified it as fraudulent, enter a dispute directly with the creditor as well as with the credit reporting agencies of EquifaxExperian and TransUnion.

You can obtain a free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com or 877-322-8228.

Place a 90-day initial fraud alert on your credit report

Contact the credit reporting agencies and request a 90-day initial fraud alert on your credit report. Not only will this trigger a free credit report but will advise potential creditors to investigate any application prior to issuing credit, goods, benefits and/or services.

Equifax can be contacted at 800-525-6285, Experian at 888-397-3742 and Trans Union at 800-916-8800. Be sure to renew the alert every three months.

Freeze your credit report

Identity thieves are frozen in their tracks without access to your credit report as potential creditors will not have access to your credit history. In most states, you are entitled to temporarily “freeze” access to your credit profile without cost if you are over 65 years of age or are a verified victim of identity theft. All others may be required to pay a small fee. Without access to your credit report, a responsible lender will not issue credit.

Stop unsolicited credit card offers

Opting out at www.optoutprescreen.com or 888-5OPT-OUT will stop most unsolicited pre-approved applications and reduce the incidence of identity theft. Opting out refers to the process of removing your name and address from lists supplied by the Equifax, Experian, Trans Union and Innovis credit reporting agencies to be used for firm (preapproved/ prescreened) offers of credit or insurance.

“Freezing our credit and keeping a vigilant eye on our accounts ourselves continues to be the only way we have any control over our data, at least until there is far more transparency and a lot less sharing of data,” concluded Richardson.

Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.

Data breach: 40 million Target customers may be impacted at Christmas


target-logo

Expect more, pay less has brought new meaning to the Christmas shopping rush as Target confirmed early Thursday that information from nearly 40 million of its customer credit and debit cards may have been compromised by a data breach during the height of the holiday shopping season.

Occurring at nearly all of their stores nationwide, the data breach occurred between November 27 and December 15, 2013.  Target said it immediately contacted authorities and financial institutions once it became aware of the security breach.

“Target’s first priority is preserving the trust of our guests, and we have moved swiftly to address this issue, so guests can shop with confidence. We regret any inconvenience this may cause,” stated Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and chief executive officer, in a prepared statement early Thursday. “We take this matter very seriously and are working with law enforcement to bring those responsible to justice.”

Target is working closely with law enforcement and financial institutions, and has identified and resolved the issue.  The Minneapolis based-company also reported that they were teaming with a third-party forensics firm to investigate the breach.

Security news writer Brian Krebs – who broke the story for KrebsOnSecurity.com on Wednesday – said the data breach could not have come at a worse time for shoppers and Target.

“I can’t think of another day in the calendar when target or anyone else could expect to have more people in stores. More deals, traffic, more swipes — perfect day to launch an attack,” Krebs told ABC News.

The breach is believed to have affected nearly 40,000 card machines at nearly 1,797 Target stores nationwide.  While millions of cardholder accounts are potentially vulnerable, online purchases have not been affected.

“The information that’s stored on the magnetic strip — name, card number, expiration date, other info — if bad guys can steal that card … they can actually create a second copy,” Krebs said. “If thieves can create a second copy and were able to intercept a PIN number, that could allow them to withdraw money from ATMs.”

Customers who may have been affected should pay close attention to their credit card and debit statements, said Krebs.

“Advice to customers — be vigilant, pay attention to your statement if something doesn’t look right,” Krebs cautioned. “Whether or not you feel like you might be impacted by this breach, it’s a really good idea, particularly around this time of year, to pay attention to what’s on your debit and credit card statements.”

While consumers will be reimbursed for any fraudulent charges, the refund might not come until after Christmas, creating another headache for shoppers who are operating on limited funds.

For more information, please visit Target’s corporate website.  Consumers who suspect unauthorized or fraudulent activity may contact Target at 866-852-8680.

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Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.

For daily updates on The Credit Report with Bill Lewis, you can join Bill’s 15,500 plus fans on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/thecreditreportwithbilllewis.

Identity theft protection services are a waste of money


If you are one of the 48 million Americans who purchased some sort of “identity theft protection” service in 2011, you wasted your money.

Identity theft protection services and credit reporting agencies such as Equifax, Experian and Trans Union push statistics like “almost 14 million adults were victims of identity theft in 2011” and “over 100 million Americans have had their personal identifying information placed at risk of identity theft as a result of governmental and corporate data breaches.”

While true, these statements are nothing but scare tactics so you will purchase a service to protect your good name and reputation within the community.

Some of these “identity theft protection services” cost up to $189 annually.

What the credit reporting agencies fail to tell you is that identity theft protection does not cover prior instances of identity theft, IRS tax return filings, account takeovers, the misuse of credit or debit cards, or the establishment of personal identification (such as a driver’s license or Social Security card) in your name.

Americans are spending an estimated $3.5 billion a year on identity theft protection. Recent reports indicate that by 2015, Americans will be spending in excess of $6 billion to protect their identity from theft.

Most of these services are a waste of money as almost all of the services provided are available at little or no cost to the consumer.

There is no reason to pay a monthly or yearly fee for something you can do yourself for free.

Periodically review your credit report

By keeping close tabs on your consumer credit profile, you can detect signs of identity theft early. If you find an account not opened by you and have positively identified it as fraudulent, enter a dispute directly with the creditor as well as with the credit reporting agencies of EquifaxExperian and TransUnion. You can obtain a free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com or 877-322-8228. When you pay for identity theft protection, this free credit report is one of the “benefits” they tout.

Place a 90-day initial fraud alert on your credit report

Contact the credit reporting agencies and request a 90-day initial fraud alert on your credit report. Not only will this trigger a free credit report but will advise potential creditors to investigate any application prior to issuing credit, goods, benefits, services and/or employment. Contact Equifax at 800-525-6285, Experian at 888-397-3742 and Trans Union at 800-916-8800. When you pay for identity theft protection, this fraud alert is one of the “benefits” they tout. Just be sure to renew the alert every three months.

Freeze your credit report

Identity thieves are frozen in their tracks without access to your credit report as potential creditors will not have access to your credit history. In most states, you are entitled to temporarily “freeze” access to your credit profile without cost if you are over 65 years of age or are a verified victim of identity theft. All others may be required to pay a small fee. Without access to your credit report, a responsible lender will not issue credit. When you pay for identity theft protection, a credit report freeze is one of the “benefits” they tout.

Stop unsolicited credit card offers

Are you tired of junk mail filling your mail box? Opting out at www.optoutprescreen.com or 888-5OPT-OUT will stop most unsolicited pre-approved applications and reduce the incidence of identity theft. Opting out refers to the process of removing your name and address from lists supplied by the Equifax, Experian, Trans Union and Innovis credit reporting agencies to be used for firm (preapproved/ prescreened) offers of credit or insurance. When paying for identity theft protection, opting out is one of the “benefits” they tout.

Purchase a cross-cut shredder

“Dumpster diving” is still a very popular method of obtaining credit card applications and supporting documentation. Purchase a cross-cut shredder that cuts vertically and horizontally, turning sensitive mail into confetti. If you think a torn up credit card application will be rejected by a credit card company, you have not heard the story of how Chase Bank approved a ripped up application.

Victims of identity theft often feel pressured into purchasing additional identity theft monitoring products when contacting the Equifax, Experian and Trans Union consumer reporting agencies to repair their credit. So much so that the Federal Trade Commission has recently reported the conduct in a 73-page report titled: “An FTC Staff Report on a Survey of Identity Theft Victims.”

What the credit reporting agencies fail to tell you is that identity theft protection does not cover prior instances of identity theft. As such, you are not protected and are wasting your money.

The FTC report also found that the vast majority of Americans dealing with identity theft issues were unaware of their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. These rights included the ability to request free credit reports when placing a fraud alert, the ability to block fraudulent information from appearing on their credit reports and to receive a notice of these and other important rights directly from creditors and consumer reporting agencies.

While the Credit Card Act of 2009 mandated a number of changes in relation to “free credit reports,” the area of identity theft protection is an area to watch. Reduced fees in one area will only mean enhanced fees in another. There is no reason to pay a monthly or yearly fee for something you can do yourself for free.

Bill Lewis is the principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” — a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends and issues on AM 740 WSBR in south Florida.

Stop Annoying or Harassing Phone Calls


Are you receiving annoying or harassing phone calls from telemarketers or debt collectors? In these tough economic times, your telephone seems to ring more often. There are actions you can take to reduce the number of calls you receive. First, you must determine whether the caller is a telemarketer attempting to solicit a product or charity, or a debt collector attempting to collect a past due bill.

To stop most telemarketers from calling your home or cell phone, you must sign up through the Do Not Call Registry offered by the Federal Trade Commission. Registration can be made online at www.donotcall.gov or by calling 888-382-1222 from the number in which you seek to block.

The national Do Not Call Registry gives you an opportunity to restrict most telemarketing calls received on your home or cell number. Once you register, telemarketers covered by registry rules have up to 31 days to remove your phone number from their calling lists. Should the telemarketing calls continue, you have a right to file a complaint with the FTC.

The Federal Trade Commission says that “because of limitations in the jurisdiction of the FTC and FCC, calls from or on behalf of political organizations, charities, and telephone surveyors would still be permitted, as would calls from companies with which you have an existing business relationship, or those to whom you’ve provided express agreement in writing to receive their calls. However, if you ask a company with which you have an existing business relationship to place your number on its own do-not-call list, it must honor your request. You should keep a record of the date you make the request.”

Distinguished from the telemarketer, is the debt collector. If you owe a past-due bill, debt collectors have the right to call you – but not harass you. The Federal Trade Commission enforces the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), a federal law that prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect from you.

There are many types of debts covered by the FDCPA. Personal, family, household debts, auto loans, medical bills, and even your mortgage are all protected under the law. The FDCPA, however, does not cover debts incurred to run or operate a business.

Some of the most common questions about debt collectors and consumer rights can be answered by visiting the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site at www.ftc.gov. Although the FTC will not normally intercede on behalf of an individual consumer, they act as a clearing house for complaints and have been known to initiate legal action against the most abusive collectors in the industry.

Should a Florida resident have a complaint about abusive debt collection tactics, they can file a complaint through the Florida Office of Financial Regulation (OFR), the state agency in charge of debt collectors, at www.flofr.com. In this instance, the OFR will open a file and forward the complaint to the offending agency.

If a debt collector violates the FDCPA, you can take legal action.

“You have the right to sue a collector in a state or federal court within one year from the date the law was violated,” the FTC said. “If you win, the judge can require the collector to pay you for any damages you can prove you suffered because of the illegal collection practices, like lost wages and medical bills. The judge can require the debt collector to pay you up to $1,000, even if you can’t prove that you suffered actual damages. You also can be reimbursed for your attorney’s fees and court costs. A group of people also may sue a debt collector as part of a class action lawsuit and recover money for damages up to $500,000, or one percent of the collector’s net worth, whichever amount is lower. Even if a debt collector violates the FDCPA in trying to collect a debt, the debt does not go away if you owe it.”

Whether you receive an annoying or harassing call from a telemarketer soliciting a product or charity, or a debt collector attempting to collect a debt, you can stop your phone from ringing by simply learning your rights.

William E. Lewis Jr., is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.

http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2010/mar/21/lc-stop-annoying-or-harassing-phone-calls/columns-welewisjr/

Identity Theft Protection is a Waste of Money


Are you one of the 13 million people who purchased “identity theft protection” in 2009?  If so, you wasted your money.  Identity theft protection companies push statistics like “almost 11 million adults were victims of identity theft in 2009” while prodding you to purchase a service that could cost up to $179.00 per year.  What they fail to advise is that identity theft protection does not cover account take-overs, the misuse of debits cards, or the establishment of personal identification (such as a driver license) in your name.

I am happy to report that almost all of the services provided by identity theft protection companies are available at little or no cost.  There is no reason to pay a monthly or yearly fee for something you can do yourself.

REVIEW YOUR CREDIT REPORT

By keeping close tabs on your credit report, you can identify signs of fraud early.  If you find an account not opened by you and have positively identified it as fraudulent, enter a dispute with the credit reporting agencies of Equifax, Experian and Trans Union.  You can obtain a free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com or (877) 322-8228.  When you pay for identity theft protection, this free credit report is one of the “benefits” they tout.

PLACE A 90-DAY INITIAL FRAUD ALERT ON YOUR CREDIT REPORT

Call the credit reporting agencies and request a 90-day initial fraud alert on your credit report.  Not only will this trigger a free credit report but will advise potential creditors to investigate any application prior to issuing credit, goods, benefits, services, and/or employment.  Contact Equifax at (800) 525-6285, Experian at (888) 397-3742 and Trans Union at (800) 916-8800.  When you pay for identity theft protection, this fraud alert is one of the “benefits” they tout.

FREEZE YOUR CREDIT REPORT

Identity thieves and creditors are frozen in their tracks without access to your credit report as they will not have access to your credit history.  In Florida, you are entitled to temporarily “freeze” access to your credit profile without cost if you are over 65 years of age or are a verified victim of identity theft.  All others must pay $10.00.  Without access to your credit report, a responsible lender will not issue credit.  When you pay for identity theft protection, a credit report freeze is one of the “benefits” they tout.

STOP UNSOLICITED CREDIT CARD OFFERS

Are you tired of junk mail filling your mail box?  Opting out at www.optoutprescreen.com or (888) 5OPT-OUT will stop most unsolicited pre-approved applications and reduce the incidence of identity theft. Opting-Out refers to the process of removing your name from lists supplied by Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, and Innovis to be used for firm (preapproved / prescreened) offers of credit or insurance.  When paying for identity theft protection, opting out is one of the “benefits” they tout.

BUY A CROSS-CUT SHREDDER


“Dumpster diving” is still a very popular method of obtaining credit card applications and supporting documentation.  Purchase a cross-cut shredder that cuts vertically and horizontally, turning sensitive mail into confetti.  If you think a torn up credit card application will be rejected by a credit card company, you have not heard the story of how Chase approved a ripped up application.

While the Credit Card Act of 2009 has mandated a number of changes in relation to “free credit reports,” the area of identity theft protection is an area to watch.  Reduced fees in one area will only mean enhanced fees in another.  There is no reason to pay a monthly or yearly fee for something you can do yourself.

William E. Lewis Jr., is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.

http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2010/mar/07/lc-identity-theft-protection-is-a-waste-of-money/columns-welewisjr/

A Truly Free Credit Report Without Cost or Fee


Have you ever been denied credit, goods, benefits, services, employment and/or insurance? Do you have a problem with “free” credit reports that are often bundled with credit scores and/or credit monitoring services and steep monthly fees? If so, you are not alone.

As part of the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (commonly referred to as the Credit Card Act of 2009), advertisements for credit reports will soon require enhanced disclosures to help consumers avoid confusing “free” offers. These offers often require consumers to spend money on credit scores and/or credit monitoring while the “no-strings-attached” credit reports available through the central source at www.AnnualCreditReport.com are truly free to consumers once every 12 months

Effective April 1, 2010, the Federal Trade Commission’s Free Credit Reports Rule will require a prominent and enhanced disclosure in advertisements for “free” credit reports. Specifically, all Web sites offering “free” credit reports must include – across the top of any page that mentions them – a disclosure stating:

THIS NOTICE IS REQUIRED BY LAW. Read more at FTC.GOV You have the right to a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com or 877-322-8228, the only authorized source under federal law.

The Web site disclosure must include a clickable button to “Take me to the authorized source” at www.AnnualCreditReport.com as well as clickable links to the Federal Trade Commission Web site at www.ftc.gov.

Under recent legislation, the Credit Card Act of 2009 required the Federal Trade Commission to issue a rule to prevent deceptive marketing of “free” credit reports. Specifically, the Act requires that certain advertisements for “free” credit reports include prominent disclosures designed to prevent consumers from confusing these so-called “free” offers with the federally mandated “free” annual credit reports available through the “centralized source,” which is www.AnnualCreditReport.com.

The Federal Trade Commission proposed amending the rule in late 2009 and received more than a thousand comments from consumers, consumer reporting agencies, consumer report resellers, business and trade organizations, state attorneys general, consumer advocates, law firms, members of Congress, and academics. Most of these comments were in favor of change and enhanced disclosure requirements.

The amended rule also restricts practices that might mislead or confuse consumers as they attempt to obtain their federally mandated “free” annual credit report. The consumer reporting agencies of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion will now be required to delay the advertising of any products and/or services at the central source until the consumer has successfully obtained their “free” annual credit report.

Except for the wording of the disclosures for television and radio advertisements, which takes effect on Sept. 1, 2010, the new rule is effective April 1, 2010. The Federal Trade Commission will monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the amended rule as well as the required disclosures and may consider additional changes as deemed necessary in the normal course of affairs.

Information contained in credit reports may determine whether a consumer can obtain credit, goods, benefits, services, employment and/or insurance. As such, it is important that consumers review their credit reports and correct any information that is inaccurate, erroneous, obsolete, and/or fraudulent. Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, Equifax, Experian and Trans Union are required to provide consumers with a “free” annual credit report once every 12 months, but only upon request. To learn more about their right to a “free” credit report under federal law, consumers are encouraged to visit the Federal Trade Commission website at http://www.ftc.gov/freereports.

William E. Lewis Jr., is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.

http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2010/feb/28/lc-a-truly-free-credit-report-without-cost-or-fee/columns-welewisjr/