Investigations by the Internal Revenue Service into tax related-identity theft have been on the increase. These tax fraud cases numbered 1,492 in 2013, which was an increase of approximately 66 percent from 2012 and more than 400 percent from 2011.
Stolen personal information, such as Social Security numbers is one problem. Another recent scam involved callers impersonating IRS agents. Victims were told they owed taxes and needed to pay via wire transfer. Correspondence from the IRS almost always takes the form of a letter, so be wary of anyone calling from the IRS.
Conspiracy and fraud charges
The details of a more sophisticated scheme were disclosed recently as part of a plea deal and sentencing for a California man. He admitted receiving $1.9 million by using the identities of living and dead people to file 2,400 fraudulent electronic tax returns. Authorities had only been able to catch him through the use of a Stingray. This powerful tracking device pretends to be a cellphone tower and tracked the Internet air card that made the filings.
As part of a plea agreement, the man pleaded guilty to four counts that included conspiracy, wire fraud and mail fraud. Seventy other charges were dismissed. A sentence of 10 to 15 years was possible.
The U.S. District Court Judge found that the time he had spent in custody was sufficient and added three years of supervised release along with 100 hours of community service. He had been in custody since his arrest in 2008 and had repaid the money.
High tech investigative tools are allowing the agency to go after more identity-related schemes. The number of investigations and prosecutions is only anticipated to increase.
The use of stingray technology, however, has drawn the attention of the ACLU. Privacy concerns could be raised and may provide a defense in future cases.
Source: Miami Herald, “Man sentenced to time served in tax fraud scheme,” Jacques Billeaud, Apr. 7, 2014