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Feds in FL Cracking Down on Tax Fraud

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — United States Attorney Pamela C. Marsh and Special Agent in Charge James D. Robnett of the Tampa Field Office of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation joined today to announce their increased efforts to enforce federal income tax laws as the nation begins the tax-filing season.

From Pensacola to Gainesville, legal actions for violations of tax and monetary laws have surged. Recent trials found two guilty in Panama City of more than $500,000 in stolen identity refund fraud; six defendants throughout the district pleaded guilty in separate cases involving more than $3 million in tax fraud; and judgments of eight defendants in Pensacola, Panama City, and Tallahassee netted sentences ranging from 24 to 78 months, more than $6 million in forfeiture, and an estimated $900,000 in restitution. These recent activities, along with the indictment of five more individuals, make up part of the increased enforcement efforts over the recent weeks.

Ms. Marsh cautioned would-be fraudsters, “As the number of crooks willing to steal identities and tax dollars has grown, so has our ability to track, investigate, arrest, and prosecute these cases. We will pursue criminal prosecutions of all who engage in these illegal activities, with intensity. Further, to those who contemplate filing fraudulent tax returns, the recent sentences handed down by our courts should serve as a warning that offenders face serious punishment. Honest, hardworking taxpayers are entitled to this protection by law enforcement. We are ready for tax season.”

SAC Robnett warned tax cheats, “Beware! As filing season approaches, many of you may believe you can get away with committing tax fraud. But be warned: the tenacious investigators of the IRS will not stop in their pursuit of those responsible for stealing from the federal government and the American people.” In addressing the taxpaying public, SAC Robnett stated, “Our office, in partnership with prosecutors and law enforcement officers throughout the state, will dedicate the necessary resources to make an impact in the fight against fraud. You, the taxpaying members of the public, should have confidence that those who do not pay their fair share of taxes, and who steal your hard earned money, will be held accountable.”

Over the last year, here are some examples of notable tax cases in our District:

Pensacola:

January 31, 2014: Douglas Edward Henderson, 51, of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, pleaded guilty to an Information charging him with five counts of submitting a false tax return, two counts of aiding in the preparation of a false tax return, one count of mail fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. As the president of Henderson Electric Heat and Air Conditioning and Henderson Electric, Inc., Henderson caused personal expenses to be paid from business accounts for the years 2008 through 2010, and caused their false classification as business expenses associated with contracts between his companies and MacDill Air Force base. These items were then falsely deducted on corporate tax returns and the personal income was never reported on his individual income tax return, for which he later provided false invoices to the IRS in an attempt to conceal the crime. Henderson also engaged in a fraudulent short-sale of a condominium causing the mortgage company to lose nearly $500,000. Henderson is scheduled to be sentenced by Chief U.S. District Court Judge M. Casey Rodgers on April 17, 2014, at 9 a.m.

Panama City:

February 6, 2014: Angel Done, 54, of New York, New York, was sentenced by United States District Judge Richard Smoak to 78 months in prison and was ordered to pay restitution to the IRS in conjunction with other defendants in the amount of $245,747.32. Done was the last of five defendants sentenced to federal prison for various federal tax violations. Previously, Judge Smoak sentenced Wilson Calle, 55, of New York, New York, and Blaine Johnston, 62, of Marianna, Florida, each to 78 months in prison; Wilfredo Rodriguez, 53, of Miami, Florida, to 27 months in prison; and Diana Gonzalez, 63, of Miami, Florida, to 63 months in prison. Between 2008 and 2009, the defendants prepared and filed fraudulent tax returns seeking more than $19 million in refunds.

February 6, 2014: Versiah M. Taylor, 33, and Tracy L. Collier, 48, both of Panama City, Florida, were found guilty by a federal jury on multiple counts of tax fraud, wire fraud, and identity theft. Between September 9, 2011, and August 15, 2012, the defendants prepared and filed fraudulent tax returns seeking more than $500,000 in refunds using the personal identifying information (PII) of inmates of the Florida Department of Corrections, Bay County residents, and others. Collier, who was incarcerated during the conspiracy, provided the personal information of inmates by disguising the social security numbers and dates of birth as legal case citations and then mailing them to Taylor. Taylor orchestrated the filing of multiple tax returns using false employment information and the PII of other individuals. Sentencing for both defendants is scheduled for May 7, 2014, before United States District Judge Richard Smoak.

Tallahassee:

January 23, 2014: Jerry Samuel Joseph, 33, originally of Tallahassee, Florida, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to file false tax claims for refund, theft of government property, mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft. Joseph filed at least 71 false tax returns totaling more than $315,000. Joseph is scheduled to be sentenced before U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Hinkle on April 29, 2014. Rose Vernet, a co-conspirator who helped cash some of the refund checks produced by this fraudulent scheme, received a term of probation and was ordered to pay $20,714.45 in restitution on November 14, 2013.

February 4, 2014: Ashley Assgill Glover, 28, of Miami, Florida, pleaded guilty to one count of theft of government property, one count of possession of unauthorized devices, and one count of aggravated identity theft. Following a traffic stop by the Tallahassee Police Department, Glover was found with the PII of more than 800 victims and debit cards loaded with tax refunds linked to fraudulent tax returns. Glover was stopped two more times in the following eight months by various state and local law enforcement agencies, each time in the possession of the PII of hundreds of victims. To date, the IRS has identified fraudulent tax returns using that PII, which claim approximately $369,848 in fraudulent tax refunds. Glover is scheduled to be sentenced before U.S. District Court Judge Mark E. Walker on April 18, 2014.

February 11, 2014: Ricardo Jean-Louis, 24, of North Miami, Florida, pleaded guilty to theft of government funds, unlawful use of an access device, and aggravated identity theft. Between January and February 2012, Jean-Louis obtained six pre-paid debit cards that had been loaded with fraudulently obtained tax refunds totaling more than $50,000. The tax returns had been filed in the names of unwitting victims. Jean-Louis used several of the cards at Tallahassee banks and retailers to obtain more than $10,000 in cash and merchandise. He is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District court Judge Robert L. Hinkle on May 2, 2014 at 9 a.m.

February 14, 2014: U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Hinkle sentenced William “Geri” Eaton, 60, to 27 months in prison for tax evasion and making false statements in a matter involving a health care benefit program. Between August 2010 and December 2011, Eaton willfully evaded payment of more than $650,000 in federal income taxes by concealing the nature, location, and extent of his assets, by making false and misleading statements and material omissions concerning the existence of IRS liens on his property, and by opening a bank account using a false social security number. Eaton also admitted making false statements and submitting false documents in a matter involving Sacred Heart Health System.

Gainesville:

February 13, 2014: Ricardo Jacinto Rodriguez, 37, of Tampa, Florida, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to file false tax claims for refund, possession of unauthorized access devices, and aggravated identity theft. Rodriguez admitted to providing PII of more than 100 patients from the Veteran’s Administration, where he worked as a volunteer, to his co-defendant, Andropolis Mitchell, who already pleaded guilty to his participation in the fraudulent tax scheme. The investigation determined that an estimated 65 false claims for tax refunds were filed in an attempt to obtain more than $550,000, of which the defendants received approximately $212,000. Rodriguez is scheduled to be sentenced on May 19, 2014, before U.S. District Court Judge Mark E. Walker.

These cases were the result of investigations by the Special Agents of the IRS-Criminal Investigation, its federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys of the Northern District of Florida.


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