Identity theft and tax fraud allegations involving homeless

Every year, many individuals in the Atlanta area who may be eligible for tax refunds simply fail to file a tax return because they are living outside of the mainstream of society. For a variety of reasons, individuals living in shelters or other homeless people often do not file. Now federal prosecutors say an Atlanta area criminal conspiracy sought to profit from a tax fraud scheme that used these individuals’ identities.

This alleged conspiracy involved at least five individuals. In some cases an individual charged in a conspiracy may not have knowledge of the actions of his alleged co-conspirators. In this case for example, the individuals who collected the information from the homeless individuals may or may not have known for what purposes that information would be used.

The U.S. Attorney involved in the investigation, says that the co-conspirators would go to homeless shelters and jails in order to obtain the personal information of the people there. They would then file tax returns in these people’s names and keep the tax refunds for themselves.

Prosecutors allege that the group filed at least 120 fraudulent tax returns between December 2005 and March 2007. Authorities assert that the fraudulent returns produced $1,660,000 in tax refunds. The group is accused of arranging for the refunds to be deposited in bank accounts that they controlled and then draining the assets out of the accounts.

Yesterday, the fourth individual was sentenced for his involvement in the scheme. The 43-year-old man was sentenced to up to eight years in prison. The others convicted in this matter have been sentenced to between three and six years in prison.

It is unclear whether any of the individuals whose identities were allegedly stolen were even aware that a tax return had been fraudulently filed in their name. The special agent in charge of IRS criminal investigations encouraged anyone else who thinks that their identities’ had been used to file a fraudulent tax return is encouraged to contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialty Unit.

Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution “Prosecutor: IRS cheat preyed on the homeless, inmates,” Christopher Seward, Nov. 3, 2011