Thursday, December 14, 2017
News Roundup

State Juvenile Justice probation officer charged in tax fraud

TAMPA — A probation officer for Florida's Department of Juvenile Justice has been federally charged in a conspiracy to use the identities of minors on probation to collect fraudulently obtained income tax refunds.

Corey A. Coley Sr., the officer, and Albert E. Moore Jr., a Walmart employee, were arrested and appeared Thursday in U.S. District Court in Tampa.

Almost simultaneously, the state fired Coley, and department Secretary Wansley Walters called the alleged mining of sensitive identity information "shameful" and "a blatant betrayal of trust."

The scheme, described in court records, married the stolen identities of living delinquents to borrowed identities of dead adults.

The juvenile names were used to order reloadable debit cards from banks. But the IRS rejected tax claims on kids. So a third conspirator combed the Internet to find dead people with the same names and used their identifiers to request refunds. The refunds were deposited onto the debit cards, the records show.

Last year, more than 200 returns seeking $1.4 million in refunds were filed from the address of a woman who told authorities she conspired with Coley and Moore. Another $250,000 in claims came from an Internet address assigned to Moore's residence.

Coley, 36, had been a juvenile probation officer in Hillsborough County since 2001.

He got paid $33,309 a year to review delinquency complaints, recommend detention or release, develop case plans and, in an array of ways, keep tabs on the progress of juveniles in trouble.

As part of his job, he had access to the state's primary repository for delinquency information, a database that includes the names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers of current and former juvenile defendants, said Meghan Speakes Collins, communications director for the department.

Thousands of workers must access the system to do their jobs, she said.

"It's really one of those bad egg situations," she said of Coley.

In the past five years, the agency has taken steps to protect identity information, she said. Casual users might see only partial Social Security numbers. A record is created when someone views the full number, perhaps to qualify an offender for Medicaid.

Authorities believe Coley accessed a screen showing complete Social Security numbers from a laptop in a way that left little trail.

Coley had no disciplinary record, she said, and state records show no prior arrests.

The investigation began in September with a tip to the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office. Cpl. Bruce Crumpler took it to the inspector general for Juvenile Justice. And then IRS-Criminal Investigations got involved.

By October, the department had fixed its soft spot. In the months that followed, Coley was kept on the job but his access to the database was cut off, the spokeswoman said.

In an affidavit in the 12-page criminal complaint, IRS-CI Special Agent John Maguire described the findings.

He identified the third conspirator as Mattie Philon, who is not charged though her admissions to investigators are repeatedly referenced in the document.

Maguire wrote of Philon's assistance to the Sheriff's Office, which recorded conversations between her and Moore in mid September and October. He was caught on video filing returns.

"Remember, it's not fraudulent unless somebody say it's fraudulent," Moore told Philon, according to the affidavit.

IRS translation: Children or dead people won't complain.

In several ways, investigators also linked Coley. Debit cards were sent to his address. Money showed up in his bank account. His cell phone and home phone were used to check on the status of returns — 10 times in the case of one return, the records show.

"We have seen perpetrators of tax fraud from nearly every walk of life," said Jim Robnett, special agent in charge of IRS-CI in Tampa, "including those in positions of public trust."

News researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Patty Ryan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3382.

Comments

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, please go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Wed., Dec. 13, midday:53 738 7036e_SRit10321Wed., Dec. 13, evening:57 775 2681e_SRit55890LottoWed., Dec....
Updated: 5 hours ago

Winter meetings journal: Rays trade for money to sign top international free agent

LAKE BUENA VISTA — While most of the business conducted at the meetings impacts the big-league team one way or another, the Rays are working to finalize a move they hope pays off big sometime in the 2020s.In trading Wednesday to acquire $1 million in...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Market starting to set itself as Rays’ trade talks intensify

Market starting to set itself as Rays’ trade talks intensify

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Alex Colome claimed he was just showing good social media manners Tuesday night in following four Cardinals-related Instagram accounts since they were saying nice things about him.In doing so, whether for that reason or another mor...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Senate race motivated Alabama’s white, black evangelical voters in different ways

Senate race motivated Alabama’s white, black evangelical voters in different ways

Nationally, the word "evangelical" has become in recent years nearly synonymous with "conservative Republican" and Alabama is one of the most evangelical states in the country. But in Alabama, there is a difference: black Christians.While in many par...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Gators crash volleyball power party, play national semifinal Thursday

Gators crash volleyball power party, play national semifinal Thursday

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s difficult to call a volleyball program that has been to the Final Four eight times an underdog, especially the way Florida rallied to beat Southern California and punch its latest ticket. Yet of the four schools descending on ...
Updated: 5 hours ago

High school scoreboard for Dec. 13

Wednesday’s scoreboardGirls soccerCountryside 3, St. Petersburg 1Girls basketballPalm Harbor U. 42, Largo 25
Updated: 6 hours ago
Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Lt. Gov. Tina Smith on Wednesday to fill fellow Democrat Al Franken’s Senate seat until a special election in November, setting up his longtime and trusted adviser for a potentially bruising 2018...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Florida Toys for Tots charity raffles off AR-15 rifle. Gun debate ensues.

Florida Toys for Tots charity raffles off AR-15 rifle. Gun debate ensues.

SPRING HILL — Hernando County Commission Vice Chairman Steve Champion wanted to do something to help raise money for the annual Toys for Tots drive. So he donated the grand prize for the Nov. 18 raffle:It was an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.That led to ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Thefts from cell towers interrupted service, deputies say

Thefts from cell towers interrupted service, deputies say

Lost cell signal recently? The culprit could be a 40-year-old Ruskin man who deputies said stole thousands of dollars worth of the equipment that powers cell towers. The theft interrupted cell tower signals on at least two occasions, deputies said, i...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Foot washes ashore in Canada, again; Abbas wants U.S. out as Mideast mediator; 12 sentenced to life for gang-raping kids; more in world news

Foot washes ashore in Canada, again; Abbas wants U.S. out as Mideast mediator; 12 sentenced to life for gang-raping kids; more in world news

CanadaJust another foot washing ashoreAnother human foot has been found on British Columbia’s coastline, the 13th such grim discovery since 2007. Police said a man was walking on the beach in Jordan River on Vancouver Island when his dog found the fo...
Updated: 6 hours ago