Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa among nine cities IRS considers high risk for tax fraud

Internal Revenue Service officials visited 150 money services businesses in nine cities they consider a high risk for tax fraud — including Tampa — in the last week to make sure they weren't knowingly taking part in identity theft and refund fraud rings.

The visits were a component of a recent federal government sweep that ensnared 105 people in 23 states in a crackdown on identity theft and tax fraud timed to warn cheats to beware this tax season, the IRS said Tuesday.

The sweep ranged from Florida to Alaska, and included 80 complaints and indictments and 58 arrests. It has already produced a handful of guilty pleas and sentences, officials said.

Besides the IRS, the Justice Department, the Postal Service and local U.S. attorney's offices were involved in investigations that lasted months and, in some cases, years.

Officials unsealed an indictment Jan. 24 that included Henry Edward Clayton, 31, of Tampa. He was indicted with eight others in Tallahassee, accused of conspiring to file fraudulent tax returns from 2008 to 2011 and collecting $2.4 million in the process.

On Jan. 25, the Justice Department also charged Fahim Suleiman, 46, of Lutz with being part of a group of six who conspired to commit mail fraud and defraud the government. Suleiman was also charged with two counts of aggravated identity theft.

IRS officials say the use of stolen identities to fraudulently file for tax refunds, generally involving stolen Social Security numbers, is a growing problem. Last year, the agency says, it found 260,000 income tax returns with confirmed attempts at identity fraud and blocked the payment of $1.4 billion worth of refunds.

"The timing is not coincidental," Steven Miller, the IRS's deputy commissioner for services and enforcement told reporters. "It's the start of tax season, this is a large issue and we want to send a message out there."

The cases, some of which were announced previously by local officials, included:

• Three women from Dayton, Ohio, accused of getting tax refunds by using identities stolen from mentally disabled adults;

• A Montgomery, Ala., woman accused of using her job as a security guard to steal identities of people served by a state agency to file false returns;

• A Colorado Springs man charged with stealing identities of the clients of a company that had gone out of business to fraudulently file for tax refunds.

The sweep of 150 money services businesses was conducted in nine cities the IRS considers a high risk for fraud. Besides Tampa, they are Atlanta; Birmingham, Ala.; Chicago; Los Angeles; Miami; New York; Phoenix; and Washington, D.C. In addition, the agency is auditing more than 250 check-cashing operations around the country.

Last year, local and federal officials announced in Tampa that a yearlong investigation into tax scams called "Operation Rainmaker" was able to intercept $100 million and recover $5 million in cash, jewelry, cars, entertainment systems and fraudulent refunds. Another $25 million was believed to have been illegally obtained but was not recovered.

Tampa among nine cities IRS considers high risk for tax fraud 01/31/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 12:00am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 5 things to do under $5: Wiener dog racing, Streetcar Festival, Clearwater chalk art, Dia De Los Muertos


    1Wienerfest: They had us at wiener dog racing. This day devoted to dachshunds features racing, a dog costume contest, food trucks, photo booth and raffles at the Florida State Fairgrounds on Saturday. Leashed dogs of all breeds welcome. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. Free admission. (407) …

    An entry in the costume contest from 2015's annual Dia de los Muertos Fiesta, or Day of the Dead Festival, hosted by Casa Tina's Mexican Restaurant.
photo courtesy Mikell Herrick
  2. Locale Market changes yet again, rebranding the restaurant as FarmTable Cucina

    Food & Dining

    When Locale Market opened in Sundial St. Pete in Dec. 2014, it was the most-hyped, most-anticipated gourmet market/food hall/culinary playground Tampa Bay had ever seen. Since then, celebrity chef-owner Michael Mina has done what every entrepreneur does in the face of challenges: tinker.

    Chef Michael Mina and chef Jeffrey Hileman work in the kitchen at Farmtable Kitchen in 2016. EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times
  3. Look for Tampa Bay filmmaker Joe Davison on 'Stranger Things'

    Human Interest

    For a year, Joe Davison kept a secret he wanted to tell so badly he feared it would burst from his mouth like an alien baby from John Hurt's chest.

    Joe Davison, at home in his dining room in Seminole, decked out for Halloween with “Stranger Things” decor, will appear in Season 2 of “Stranger Things.”
  4. Brooksville council begins study of law enforcement options

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The City Council has jumped headlong into a discussion about the future of the Brooksville Police Department — specifically whether to maintain it as is or change the way law enforcement service is provided in an effort to relieve the city's budget woes.

    Brooksville Mayor Robert Battista suggested that the City Council agree to promise residents that neither the city police nor fire departments would be disbanded without a voter referendum.
  5. U.S. home construction tumbles 4.7 percent in September

    Working Life

    WASHINGTON — Construction of new homes fell 4.7 percent in September, the biggest decline in six months, reflecting weakness in both single-family activity and apartment building.

    Construction of new homes fell 4.7 percent in September, the biggest decline in six months, reflecting weakness in both single-family activity and apartment building.  [Associated Press file photo]