TAMPA — A taxicab dispatcher who stole the identities of disabled passengers and tricked the government into paying nearly $119,000 in fraudulent tax refunds will serve the next five years in federal prison.
Belinda Smith Brooks, 47, pleaded guilty in May to theft of government property and aggravated identity theft. U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven sentenced her Wednesday to 66 months, followed by three years of probation, with credit for time served, according to court records.
Victims were Medicaid patients who did not qualify for ambulance service but qualified for transport paid by Medicaid, according to the plea agreement.
Brooks, together with others, stole the patients' names and Social Security numbers. Then Brooks used them to file false returns with the IRS, the document states. "These individuals were typically on disability, did not work, and were completely unaware that Brooks was filing fraudulent federal income tax returns in their names," it states.
Court records do not name the Tampa cab company.
The theft occurred between 2008 and 2010.
In November 2011, when booked in jail on a food stamp fraud charge, Brooks listed her employer as Yellow Cab. A dispatcher at Yellow Cab said Wednesday evening that owner Louis Minardi was unavailable for comment. Attempts to reach him through a family member were unsuccessful.
Brooks filed claims totaling $223,544. The IRS paid more than half of those claims.
Judge Scriven ordered Brooks to pay restitution of $118,882.63.
Patty Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3382.