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Land O'Lakes man accused of tax refund fraud

LAND O'LAKES — A 37-year-old Land O'Lakes man faces several fraud charges after, authorities say, he cashed fraudulent tax refund checks worth $58,732.

Demetrius Antonio Lewis was booked into the Pasco County Jail on one count of organized fraud and eight counts of criminal use of personal identification, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The FDLE led the investigation, with help from the IRS and Pasco County Sheriff's Office. Investigators say Lewis was cashing fraudulent checks made out to eight people who had no idea what he was doing.

FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey said in a statement the agency is pursuing similar cases.

Tax refund fraud is a billion-dollar national problem, and the Tampa area is at the forefront. Last year, Tampa thieves stole $468 million from the IRS, according to a federal watchdog.

Authorities often take months to investigate and build a case.

Last November, Lewis was charged with organized fraud in a different crime, authorities say.

He ran a business named Help is Here Foreclosure Prevention and Credit Repair. Under that business name, he would gather the addresses of vacant homes and for $1,000 teach anyone how to occupy them using an obscure loophole called "adverse possession," according to the FDLE.

The law states that a person can obtain a title to a home if he or she lives on the property and pays its taxes for seven years. Authorities say that doesn't give people the right to live in a home that does not belong to them.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3433.

Land O'Lakes man accused of tax refund fraud 09/10/12 [Last modified: Monday, September 10, 2012 10:58pm]
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