Federal prosecutors in Cincinnati have charged “seven men with ties to Zimbabwe with orchestrating a massive tax fraud scheme that used identity theft to steal as much as $10 million.”
According to news reports, the group of men stole personal identifiers from taxpayers. One of the members of the conspiracy allegedly used a tax preparation service, Express Refund Center on Colerain Avenue in Mount Airy, to obtain personal information from taxpayers and then file hundreds of phony tax returns. The refunds for the phony tax return – totaling millions of dollars – were, in some cases, allegedly used to purchase cars which were later shipped to Zimbabwe.
Sometimes the phony returns were processed by the IRS and received received the refunds before the taxayers whose identities had been stolen filed their legitimate returns. Newspapers noted that the fraudulent return usually was the one processed by the IRS because it was filed first, forcing the unsuspecting taxpayers to contact the IRS and arrange to re-file the correct return.
The investigation of this case was likely extremely extensive, involving multiple law enforcement agencies. This case, accordingly, illustrates the tremendous resources the federal government can deploy in pursuing criminal charges against individuals or groups. Individuals facing federal criminal charges need to contact an attorney with the experience, knowledge and the ability to protect their interests.
U.S. Attorney Carter Stewart was quoted in the Cincinnati Enquirer saying that similar schemes are growing in popularity around the country as criminals get more creative in how they use identity theft for profit. Victims of identity fraud should contact a civil litigation attorney with criminal law experience who can assist with providing key information to the police and prosecutors. The attorney can deal with the insurance company and even arrange for compensation from the Victims of Crime Compensation Fund at no cost to the victims.