Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Richard Weber, Chief, IRS-Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI), and Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Miami Office, Paula Reid, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, Michael B. Steinbach, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, Antonio J. Gomez, Acting Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Miami Division, Guy Fallen, Special Agent in Charge, Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG), Kelly R. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, IRS-CI, St. Paul Field Office, Steven Steinberg, Chief, Aventura Police Department, Larry Gomer, Chief, North Miami Beach Police Department, and J.D. Patterson, Director, Miami-Dade Police Department, announced the filing of federal charges against 14 defendants in six separate cases, in which thousands of stolen identities were used to submit millions of dollars in fraudulent tax refund claims. The cases announced today 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. Florida’s rate of 178 complaints per 100,000 residents – the highest in the United States – is dwarfed by the Miami rate of 324.1 complaints per 100,000 residents. Moreover, 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. The City of Miami’s 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.
On October 10, 2012, to combat the rising tide of SIRF scams, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, along with its federal and local law enforcement partners, established the South Florida Identity Theft Tax Fraud Strike Force (Strike Force). The members of the Strike Force include IRS-CI, U.S. Secret Service, FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, City of Aventura Police Department, Miami-Dade Police Department, North Miami Beach Police Department, and the SSA-OIG.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Identity theft tax refund fraud has spread through South Florida like a virus. Since the creation of the Strike Force, the U.S. Attorney’s 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. “Today’s actions should serve as a warning that we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s 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. Attorney’s 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 hardworking, 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.”
Antonio J. Gomez, Acting Inspector in Charge for U.S. Postal Inspection Service stated, “The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is going to continue to collaborate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners at every level to protect the American taxpayer from this type of predatory crime and to ensure that the U.S. Postal Service is not used as a conduit for this type of criminal activity.”
Director J.D. Patterson from the Miami-Dade Police Department stated, “The continued partnership between local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies proves to be an effective measure against wide-spread crime epidemics such as; Identity theft tax refund fraud.”