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Tax fraud scheme stole ID of disabled man

TAMPA — On June 3, Tampa police arrested a man who had just withdrawn $400 from an ATM on Nebraska Avenue, using a debit card in the name of Logan Pennypacker.

The catch? The real Logan Pennypacker doesn't have a checking account or an income. The 27-year-old, who has a neurological disorder called ataxia, is dependent on his parents and spends his days in classes for disabled adults at the Hillsborough Achievement and Resource Centers.

Police arrested the man at the automated teller machine, 21-year-old Reginald F. Jennings, on possession charges after finding marijuana in his car. Then authorities began looking into what they suspected was income tax fraud.

Officials later determined that Jennings had stolen Pennypacker's identity and filed a false tax return for $2,600 in his name.

"We were shocked," said Valerie Pennypacker, Logan's mother, during a news conference Friday. "It's not fair. It's not right."

Pennypacker is the unlikely face of a tax fraud scheme that local and federal law enforcement officials have been investigating for the last year. On Friday, they announced the arrest of 49 people connected with the scheme and said the investigation had netted more than $130 million in fraudulent tax refunds, cash and goods.

The Pennypackers don't know how Logan's identity was stolen, but said they were disturbed that it was stolen at all. "I'm going to be very careful about where I write his Social Security number now," Valerie Pennypacker said. "That's really about all you can do."

The center's chief executive, Richard Lilliston, said incidents like Logan's are rare, but that about 10 to 15 percent of his disabled clients have been victims of Social Security fraud.

Tax fraud scheme stole ID of disabled man 09/02/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 2, 2011 10:38pm]
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