Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Indictment and plea in two Tampa tax fraud cases

TAMPA — A used car dealer accused of accepting fraudulent tax refund checks as payment by customers and filing his own false tax returns has been indicted on a variety of fraud charges in a scheme that netted $1.17 million, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Tuesday.

Russell B. Simmons Jr., 42, who operated Simmons Auto Sales, 4615 N 34th St., Tampa, was indicted on charges of tax fraud, identity theft, wire fraud, theft of government property and filing false returns.

Simmons accepted federal tax refund checks that he knew were obtained fraudulently "with a much higher value than the price of the vehicles he sold, keeping the difference for himself," the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida said Tuesday.

"Stealing identities and filing false tax returns is a serious crime that hurts innocent taxpayers," IRS criminal investigation chief Richard Weber said in a statement.

Simmons was first arrested in late 2011 after police searched his business and found 134 TurboTax cards, two Jaguars, a Bentley and $38,000 in cash and money orders. At the time, he was charged with grand theft and identity theft, not tax fraud.

In an unrelated case, Arswaya Ralph, 33, of Riverview, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Tampa federal court to filing a false income tax claim and identity theft. She will be sentenced later this year.

In 2010, Ralph filed 65 fraudulent tax returns with a value of $467,000, according to her plea agreement. The scheme was so brazen that Ralph held "drop parties" where she and others filed numerous fraudulent returns, prosecutors say.

Law enforcement authorities said they found $27,000 in Ralph's bedroom closet when they searched her home.

The cases are a product of Operation Rainmaker, a yearlong effort by local and federal law enforcement that has intercepted at least 10,000 fraudulent returns worth more than $100 million, federal officials say. In addition to federal agencies, both the Tampa Police Department and Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office are taking part.

William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3432.

Indictment and plea in two Tampa tax fraud cases 05/29/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 11:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa Bay Super Bowls: A brief history and some predictions for 2021

    Bucs

    At last, Tampa will host a Super Bowl again. It used to be that the Cigar City would host one a decade, but by the time February 2021 rolls around, it will have been 12 years since the epic showdown between the Steelers and Cardinals. Because it has been awhile, let's revisit those past Super Bowls while also peering …

    Santonio Holmes hauls in the game-winning touchdown in the Steelers' 27-23 Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Cardinals in 2009, the last time Tampa hosted a Super Bowl. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  2. Rays bats go silent in second straight loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Sure, Alex Cobb was to blame for the Rays' 4-0 loss on Tuesday.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) on the mound after the solo home run by Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, May 23, 2017.
  3. Analysis: Manchester attack was exactly what many had long feared

    World

    LONDON — For Britain's security agencies, London always seemed like the likely target. For years, the capital of 8 million with hundreds of thousands of weekly tourists and dozens of transit hubs had prepared for and feared a major terror attack.

  4. Dade City man dies after crashing into county bus, troopers say

    Public Safety

    ZEPHYRHILLS — A 38-year-old man died Tuesday after colliding into the rear of a county bus on U.S. 301, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

  5. Suspicious device at Pinellas Park home was a spent artillery round, police say

    Public Safety

    PINELLAS PARK — Bomb squad investigators determined that a "suspicious device" found at a Pinellas Park home Tuesday afternoon was a spent artillery round, police said.