A 29-year-old man is accused of using personal information of deceased people to file taxes in their names. Gary J. Thomas did this at least two dozen times and claims to have received a few thousand dollars in tax return money from the scam, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.
This crime is somewhat common, authorities say. But Thomas might be a piece to a larger case:
He is suspected of being part of an organized fraud ring filing fraudulent tax returns in the Tampa Bay area, a report states. The Pasco County Sheriff's Office has been working with the U.S. Secret Service, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and the Tampa Police Department for three months on a task force investigating these rings, the report states.
Pasco authorities referred all questions about Thomas and the fraud rings to the Secret Service, which declined to comment.
"It is ongoing," Special Agent in Charge John Joyce said of the case. "It is very active. I can't comment on it at all."
In Thomas' arrest report, Pasco Detective Justin Ross said Thomas, along with those involved in the organized fraud rings, have been finding personal identification of the deceased through genealogy websites. Ross said the criminals file the returns through Turbo Tax and have the funds placed on credit cards that require no bank account or credit check.
"The tax returns are placed onto Green Dot credit cards and sent out to the suspects who filed the tax returns," Ross wrote. "The suspects are able to have full access to the Green Dot accounts and can spend the money on the cards at their discretion.
"IRS tax fraud has become an epidemic in the Tampa Bay area," he wrote.
Thomas, of Tampa, was picked up by Pasco deputies in an unrelated case about 1:20 a.m. Monday in Wesley Chapel, after an ex-girlfriend accused Thomas of stalking her. While he was being searched, deputies found two credit cards in his backpack that did not have his name on them, a report states. A search of his car led to a list of 22 names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers of citizens — many of whom were deceased, authorities said.
Thomas is charged with 22 counts of fraudulent use of personal identification and one count of stalking. He is being held at the Pasco County jail in lieu of $57,500 bail.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.