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IRS criminal investigation works to bust those who steal your information

IRS-CI ‘Top Cop' in Miami sits down with the Call Christina team


The IRS has a law enforcement arm that works to bust, arrest and lock-up people who steal your identity.

The Call Christina team sat down with Kelly Jackson, special agent in charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Miami Field Office to give you an insider’s look at the tactics con artists are using right now to steal your money.

You may not know it by name, but you certainly have read about their work.

IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) is the unit that took down Al Capone.

Their investigation led to his conviction for tax evasion for which he served 11 years in prison. 

Related Link: Historical documents related to IRS Al Capone investigation

“We love to follow the money,” explained Jackson. “People that we investigate are going to be criminally prosecuted, we are going to arrest them, we are going to put them in jail, and they are going to serve time for criminally evading taxes.”

They also have their eyes set on the fraudsters who make money using your personal information. “You have the people that steal the identities, you have the people that sell it, you have the people who use it, it is not just one person, it is a criminal organization, just like a drug organization is,” explained Jackson.

CI is the only federal law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over federal tax crimes. Focusing on tax-related identity theft, money laundering, public corruption, cybercrime and terrorist financing IRS-CI in 2015 initiated 3,853 investigations, recommended prosecution in 3,289, secured 2,879 convictions with 80.8% to prison. In 2015 CI had the highest conviction rate in all of federal law enforcement — 93.2%

“That’s huge because it means we are spending our resources on the right cases,” said Jackson, “we are honestly here to get the bad guys off the street, put them in jail, so you don’t have to worry about it.”

CI’s 2015 investigative priorities:

  • Identity Theft Fraud
  • Abusive Return Preparer Fraud & Questionable Refund Fraud
  • International Tax Fraud
  • Fraud Referral Program
  • Political/Public Corruption
  • Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF)
  • Bank Secrecy Act and Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) Review Teams
  • Asset Forfeiture
  • Voluntary Disclosure Program
  • Counterterrorism and Sovereign Citizens 

According to IRS-CI Miami, significant cases in the Southern District of Florida include defendants such as Michael Alan Reckwerdt, former mayor and councilman for Islamorada Village, and Krishna Tripuraneni, a Palm Beach County gastroenterologist, who were each sentenced for tax fraud schemes. Multiple defendants were also sentenced in connection with the Scott Rothstein case.

Sonny Austin Ramdeo was sentenced to 240 months in prison and ordered to pay $21,442,173 in restitution for embezzlement of local, state and federal payroll taxes. The field office had its share of abusive tax return preparers like Rony Maurival, Claudia Zuloaga and co-defendant Sharon Elizabeth Angulo, and Julio Lugo. And Miami was still in the spotlight when it came to prosecuting identity theft criminals such as Nick Caty, Brandon K. Jenkins, brothers Densom and Winzord Beaucejour, and Miguel Roman, all of whom have been sentenced to prison.

The Miami Field Office also played a critical role in the Miami-Dade Community College/Higher One indictments where 18 defendants were sentenced for their role in this scheme during fiscal year 2015.

Related Link: Examples of questionable refund investigations

With a coverage area that spans from Indian River south to Monroe County and to include Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands Jackson said the Miami Field Office tends to be a trend-setter from scams. 

ID THEFT – IMPOSTER CALLS – EMAIL SCAMS

“Miami seems to breed fraud,” said Jackson, “things seem to start here. There is a melting pot of people here there’s a melting pot of fraud. Other parts of the country are seeing what we saw here 2-3 years ago.”

Related Link: Beware of aggresive IRS impersonator's telephone scam

Examples include identity theft and the ever-annoying and often financially devastating IRS imposter calls.

In Florida Jackson said more than 270 people have been fleeced out of $1.5 million in the IRS phone scam and those are believed to be conservative numbers. “We are so used to being defrauded that we are not reporting it,” said Jackson, “so I think the numbers for Florida are a little low in the big scheme of things because I think we have gotten somewhat inoculated from being defrauded, which is sad.”

Related Link: IRS imposter talks to Christina Vazquez

Nationally, it is believed the phone scams has ripped off 31 million dollars from people.

Currently on their radar are email scams. “We are going to start to hear more and more about that,” said Jackson. 

Related Link: IRS issues alert about new phishing scam targeting HR professionals

The IRS provided the Call Christina team with screen grabs to show you what some of the bogus emails look like. 

Click here for photo slideshow

“A lot of times those emails look really good, they look like they are from the IRS, they are not,” stated Jackson, “we are not going to email you and ask you to confirm your social security number or your bank account information.”

Related Link: Tax-related ID theft prevention tips

THE DARK WEB: THE NEW FRONTIER FOR FINANCIAL FRAUD

Jackson said the new frontier in financial fraud is the dark web.

“Right now the big thing is people are conducting their fraud on the dark web because you can buy and sell things with virtual currency, with the bitcoin, and they are totally anonymous,” explained Jackson. “People are using that for all types of criminal purposes so that is the next big wave for any kind of financial fraud.”

TAX PREPARER FRAUD:

Jackson said another big issue for our area is tax preparer fraud. 

"Whenever you are filing your taxes, you are giving out a lot of very critical information about who you are," President/CEO of the Better Business Bureau Southeast Florida and the Caribbean Rod Davis said. "You want to be very careful about who you are giving that information to."

Davis tells the Call Christina team that if you are using a tax preparer it is a good idea to vet them. You can start by looking up the business on the BBB's website.

"See how long they have been in business," Davis said. "This is a situation where you want to go with a trusted name and a trusted individual."

In a 2014 post on the Federal Trade Commission's website, Tim Camus, deputy inspector general for investigations and treasury inspector general for tax administration, wrote: "During the past several years, my agents have investigated and worked with Department of Justice attorneys to prosecute tax preparers who sold their clients' personal and financial information to criminals. These tax preparers abused the trust their clients placed in them to protect their sensitive information from tax-related identity theft."

Camus recommends taking the time to check the reputation and qualifications of a tax preparer before trusting anyone with your sensitive information.

If you plan on working with an accountant, ask what security measures they have in place to protect your information.

"Choose your tax return preparer carefully because you entrust them with your private financial information that needs to be protected," IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. "Most preparers provide high-quality service, but we run across cases each year where unscrupulous preparers steal from their clients and misfile their taxes."

REPORT FRAUD:

How to report tax scams

If you suspect someone else is using your social security number, or to secure information on how to prevent identity theft, you can contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Identity Theft Hotline toll-free at 877-438-4338.