MIAMI - The United States Attorney's Office announced Wednesday charges against 40 people in 20 separate multi-million dollar identity theft tax refund scams.
"Identity theft tax fraud has reached an epidemic level and these cases demonstrate that the FBI and its law enforcement partners will devote considerable resources to address the issue," said FBI agent Michael Steinbach.
Investigators said the suspects stolen 54,000 identities and filed $40 million worth of fraudulent claims.
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Lineten Belizaire, 21, Earnest Baldwin, 37, Earl Baldwin, 41, and Marckell Steward, 21, all of Miami, are charged in one of the cases, accused of participating in a stolen identity tax refund scheme that resulted in the submission of about $1 million in fraudulent refund claims.
According to the indictment, Belizaire exchanged personal identification information of various individuals with Steward and other co-conspirators for the purpose of submitting fraudulent tax returns to the IRS. The four were charged with conspiracy to submit fraudulent claims to the government, access device fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, Florida had the highest rate of identity theft in the United States in 2011.
A September 2012 report by the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration determined that Florida has the highest rate of stolen identity tax refund fraud in the United States. The report identified 74,496 potentially fraudulent returns filed in Miami resulting in more than $280 million in bogus refunds.
The arrests are the result of an investigation by the South Florida Federal-State Identity Theft Tax Fraud Strike Force.
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