Big Win For South Florida’s Identity Theft Tax Fraud Strike Force
A recent report released by the Federal Trade Commission has revealed that in 2013, Florida was the U.S. state with the highest rate of identity theft. In August 2012 the South Florida Identity Theft Tax Fraud Strike Force (Strike Force) was created to help combat this mass scale identity theft fraud, and to date has charged almost 300 defendants to refund almost $485.5 million in payments received through the fraud. The Strike Force’s most recent success has been the arrest of seventeen people accused of participating in an identity tax refund fraud scheme that used college students’ accounts to defraud Higher One, a student financial services business. While 21 people have been charged so far, over 644 victims, including many students, have been implicated in the scheme that produced and aggregate total loss of $1.9 million.
The Task Force worked in conjunction with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to investigate and bring down the massive tax identity theft fraud scheme. The scheme was relatively simple: college student financial accounts with Higher Learning and other firms were used in certain circumstances with and without the actual students’ knowledge in order to fraudulently obtained tax refunds generated. The scheme worked so well that the fraudsters are estimated to have perpetrated the same scheme through the use of over 1,000 different student accounts. In fact, at one point the leaders of the crime ring became so confident that they even attempted to have 92 fraudulently obtained tax refunds deposited into one single student account. While most of the bank accounts that were utilized to collect and store the fraudulently funds were serviced by Higher One, other bank accounts as well as colleges and universities both in and out of Florida were victims of the scheme. The people who allowed their accounts to be used in furtherance of the crime were mostly current and former students, who were paid between $100 to $1,000 for allowed access to their Higher One student financial accounts.
The South Florida Identity Theft Tax Fraud Strike Force
At both a state, local and federal level law enforcement agencies have worked hard to crackdown on the rampant identity theft fraud that occurs in Florida. The student financial tax fraud is just one more creative scheme originating in Florida that has resulted in intricate and mass identity theft fraud networks. According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), there have been over 190 identity theft complaints in Florida from consumers per every 100,000 residents. Miami specifically has been a hotbed for identity theft fraud with Miami consumers submitting over 340 identity theft complaints per 100,000 residents. The type of tax fraud that was perpetrated in the recent student financial account identity theft scheme is especially rampant in Miami. In fact in 2012, the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) released a report stating that Florida was the state with the highest rate of stolen identity tax refund fraud, and that in Miami the per capita rate of submitted fraudulent tax returns through identity theft fraud was of 45 times the U.S. national average.
Though the recent bust of the Florida student financial accounts identity theft tax fraud scheme represents a big win for law enforcement, identity theft tax fraud is still big business within the state. In fact, the TIGTA believes that within the next five years, the U.S. Internal Revenue Services (IRS) could unknowingly issue potentially $21 billion in fraudulent tax returns. If you are currently facing charges for tax fraud, you need serious legal representation. Contact criminal defense attorney Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. in Miami today for the legal representation you require in your case.