It is once again tax season, and in an effort to head off the continuing problem of tax fraud, federal authorities have taken legal action against 389 people suspected to some degree of being involved in identity theft and tax refund fraud. Criminal defense lawyers in Miami, Florida have seen an up-tick in the number of arrests and prosecutions in federal court dealing with identity theft and tax fraud. The large scale action taken by the IRS and other federal authorities has led to 109 arrests, 189 indictments and dozens of court complaints and informations. The majority of criminal activity uncovered occurred on the East Coast and in Midwest states.
Not only are individuals being targeting, but businesses as well. The IRS and other federal criminal investigators are also looking at approximately 197 money service businesses that include check cashing stores to determine if they themselves played a role in identity theft and tax return fraud. The areas of the country being scrutinized are New York, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Atlanta, Georgia; Tampa, Florida; Miami, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; Phoenix, Arizona; Houston, Texas; San Diego, California; El Paso, Texas; Tucson, Arizona; Birmingham, Alabama; Detroit, Michigan; Oakland, California, San Francisco and San Jose, California.
The main targets of identity theft and tax return fraud of the federal authorities are the individuals and businesses that acquire individual's social security numbers and other personal information, such as names and dates of births to file fraudulent federal tax returns. The IRS commissioner has decreed, "As tax season begins this year, we want to be clear that there is a heavy price to pay for perpetrators of refund fraud and identity theft. We have aggressively stepped up our efforts to pursue and prevent refund fraud and identity theft, and we will continue to intensely focus on this area." If that is not a warning, I don't know what is. The IRS has upgraded its hardware and software to more efficiently screen tax refunds. The IRS acknowledged that the new screening process will slow the processing of legitimate tax returns and refunds, but that it is a necessary evil to prevent fraud.
To combat fraud, the IRS has also hired 3,000 employees to screen for identity theft. That number has more than doubled since 2011. The crime of identity theft is taken very seriously by the United State Attorney's offices across the country. Under the federal sentencing guidelines, aggravated identity theft carries a two year prison sentence that will tacked on the normal federal sentencving guidelines. The guidelines will be determined by the amount of loss and the number of victims involved in the identity theft. For example, someone indicted for identity theft facing a guideline sentence of 57 to 71 months will also have to contend with the additional two years that can be added to the time of imprisonment. Anyone being investigated for or having been indicted for identity theft or tax refund fraud should immediately seek assistance fro a criminal lawyer with experience in federal court defending white collar crimes.
IRS Identity Theft Crackdown Leads to 109 Arrests, News10net.com, February 8, 2013.