Federal agents arrested two local police officers for identity theft and tax refund fraud. Both officers are accused of using the State of Florida driver's license data base to obtain names and personal information to commit the fraud. City of Miami Police Officers Malinsky Bazile and Vital Frederick, acting independently, got caught using the database to accumulate hundreds of names and associated personal information to file fraudulent tax returns. Bazile alone is accused of stealing $140,000 from the federal government that was meant to be returned to legitimate tax payers. Both defendants will appear this week with their respective Miami criminal lawyers for their bond hearings and arraignments. Both officers joined the City of Miami Police Department back in 2008. The arrests were made by the FBI and Miami police internal affairs detectives.
The arrests of these officers for identity theft and tax-refund fraud stem from the large scale investigation into an illegal gambling ring in Liberty City. In that investigation, officers were accused of providing protection for the gambling ring in exchange for money. Identity theft and tax-return fraud have become a big concern for law enforcement. It is a greater concern when police officers use their authority and access to public records to commit criminal offenses. Both officers are presumed innocent until they are found guilty by a jury or enter a plea. It is not clear how many state cases will have to be dismissed as a result of the alleged malfeasance.
The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida displayed disappointment and was quoted as saying, "To date, we have prosecuted Social Security office employees, hospital employees, clinic workers, former NFL players, gang members and violent criminals to name a few. Today, we sadly add law enforcement to the list of thieves." Bazile and Frederick are among the growing number of City of Miami police officers that have lost their jobs and are pending criminal charges. The entire investigation targeted officers working the Liberty City area. Both defendants are facing significant incarceration for the charged offenses. Their potential sentences will be determined by the federal sentencing guidelines which will take into account the number of victims and the amount of loss the federal government suffered. To make matters worse, both officers face a two year prison sentence for aggravated identity theft that will be stack on top of the sentence imposed by the federal judge presiding over the cases.
Over the past year, the federal government has indicted approximately 130 defendants accused of stealing more than $140,000,000 from the federal government. As the n umber of arrests grows, so does the sentences imposed in federal court for identity theft and tax-refund fraud. A defendant recently convicted of stealing more than $117,000 in tax refunds received a 16 year prison sentence. Assuming the officers do not cooperate with the federal government, they may even receive more time behind bars if convicted. Prosecutions for these types of offenses will continue until the Treasury Department can find a pro-active way of preventing the crime. South Florida is again on the radar screen as it is considered one of the capitals of this type of fraud.
Two Miami Police Officers Arrested on ID-Theft, Tax Refund Charges Linked to FBI Corruption Probe, Miami Herald.com, March 7, 2013.