ICE: Identity Theft & $19 Million Tax Refund Scheme Cracked

An investigation involving the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Anchorage police, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDEF) has cracked a $19 million identity theft and tax fraud scam. Eleven foreign nationals have been arrested for allegedly using fake identities to illegally collect tax refunds. The nationals have been accused of multiple financial crimes, including money laundering, tax fraud, conspiracy to distribute cocaine, and other crimes.

The defendants allegedly used the Social Security numbers and named of Puerto Rico residents to file fake tax returns and claim millions of dollars in IRS refunds between January and March. The eleven nationals from Mexico and the Dominican Republic allegedly engaged in an elaborate scheme to defraud the US government. Numerous government agencies worked together to investigate and gather evidence in the scheme and according to investigators the success of the investigation shows that those who engage in this kind of fraud will be caught.

As part of the investigation, three laptops were seized. The computers contained information about 2600 stolen identities and $19 million in fake tax claims. Authorities believe that at least some of the defendants stole mail from Anchorage mailboxes in order to have the physical addresses needed on tax returns. They were then able to fake identities to get fake Alaskan IDs and bank accounts to cash the refunds. The defendants fraudulently posed as US citizens in order to get documents, tax refunds, and bank accounts.  The complex scheme involved the defendants defrauding the US post system, the IRS, banks, and many other institutions. Multiple government agencies cooperated to gather evidence and track down the defendants.

The defendants face multiple charges, including aggravated identity theft, possessing stolen mail, passport fraud, making false statements to banks, passing counterfeit U.S. Treasury checks, and numerous other charges. They face between two and 30 years in prison each. If convicted of the drug charges against them, each defendant will also face at least a five year prison term for those charges. There are no reports yet about whether the $19 million will be recovered for taxpayers. It is also unknown where the money correctly is. The names of the defendants have not been released but the case has already sparked media attention as well as concerns about the ways that the nationals were able to defraud the government of taxpayer dollars.