Thursday, November 23, 2017
News Roundup

Indictment and plea in two Tampa tax fraud cases

RECOMMENDED READING


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 [email protected] or (813) 226-3432.

Comments

Updated: 1 hour ago

Motorcyclist, 27, dies in crash with taxi cab in Largo

LARGO — A motorcyclist died after crashing into a taxi cab Thursday morning, police reported.Sydney Pender, 27, was riding a 2012 Yamaha motorcycle southbound on 66th Street about 10:30, according to a Largo Police Department release.At the same time...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Update: Mother, toddler hit by car in critical condition at TGH

TAMPA — A mother and one of her two small children who were hit by a car while trying to cross Dale Mabry Highway on Wednesday were still in the hospital on Thanksgiving, according to Tampa General Hospital.Cassandra Marie Spicola, 29, and 18-month-o...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Pasco County put under immediate tornado warning

The National Weather Service has put out a tornado warning for Pasco County. Thunderstorms capable of producing a tornado and strong winds are expected over Jasmine Estates, New Port Richey and Hudson until 1:15 p.m., according to the NWS warning. Ba...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Thanksgiving forecast: Rain today, but sunny skies this weekend

Thanksgiving forecast: Rain today, but sunny skies this weekend

It’s going to be a wet Thanksgiving across Tampa Bay, but sunny skies are coming during the long weekend, according to WTSP 10Weather meteorologist Ric Kearbey. 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Self-proclaimed Nazi banned from University of North Florida — but allowed to remain a student

Self-proclaimed Nazi banned from University of North Florida — but allowed to remain a student

A self-proclaimed Nazi is banned from the University of North Florida’s campus — but will remain a student, university officials said.Ken Parker, a 37-year-old Navy veteran who once served as the grand dragon, or highest-ranking leader, of the Ku Klu...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Days after a high fever, Jon Mott wins his fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

Days after a high fever, Jon Mott wins his fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

CLEARWATER — On Tuesday, Jon Mott had a 103-degree fever. That was not enough to keep him from maintaining his dominance Thursday at the 39th Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot.The former Northeast standout added to his record with his fifth title in the ev...
Updated: 8 hours ago
President Trump presents his report card, passes with flying colors

President Trump presents his report card, passes with flying colors

PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump has a Thanksgiving Day message for the nation: Look at all I’ve done. Trump is telling followers in an early-morning holiday tweet that, "your Country is starting to do really well." He says: Jobs are "coming back,...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Lutz pedestrian dies in accident on U.S. 41

LUTZ — A man is dead after deputies said he walked into the path of a car on U.S. Route 41 Wednesday night.Charles Miller, 69 of Lutz, was walking east across the highway at 7:34 p.m., according to Florida Highway Patrol.Daniel Johnson, 35 and also o...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Tarpon Springs seeking to honor sponger George Billiris

Tarpon Springs seeking to honor sponger George Billiris

TARPON SPRINGS — The city is considering a way to honor the legacy of the late longtime sponge merchant George Billiris at a city building. "We know how he promoted Tarpon Springs," Commissioner David Banther said at a recent City Commission meeting....
Published: 11/23/17