Four more jailed in tax return scheme

TAMPA — Police made four more arrests in the widespread tax return scheme that could be costing the federal government billions annually.

The scheme works this way: A suspect takes someone's identity, files a tax return online, receives a refund on a prepaid Green Dot debit card and spends the ill-gotten gains. All four of those arrested Wednesday were carrying or using Green Dot debit cards that had other people's names, police said.

Briana Latisha Keaton, 22, of Tampa used a card to pay off a 50-inch flat screen TV and a washer and dryer, police said. The card was in the name of a 92-year-old Alzheimer's patient in a nursing home.

Wilma Lee Gallagher, 70, of Tampa tried to cash a Green Dot check using fraudulent power of attorney, according to police reports.

Police discovered a Green Dot card with multiple U.S. Treasury deposits on it when they pulled over Endrica Michell Simpson, 37, of Tampa.

Travis Rennard Johnson, 23, of Tampa used a Green Dot card in the name of an 82-year-old Illinois woman to buy jewelry at University Mall, police said.

The scheme, called "drop" because the government drops the money onto the cards, was discovered by police during traffic stops in which people had numerous prepaid debit cards containing the names of others.

Tampa police made dozens of arrests in a September sweep they called Operation Rainmaker.

The yearlong effort by local and federal law enforcement was able to intercept $100 million and recover $5 million in cash, jewelry, cars, entertainment systems and fraudulent refunds.

Warrants were also issued for four other people, who have been charged with similar crimes.

Four more jailed in tax return scheme 12/14/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 14, 2011 11:53pm]

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