$34 million and the identities of thousands of dead people were at risk in a large-scale tax fraud scheme for which 11 people were indicted Friday.
The indictment charged the defendants with conspiring to defraud the Internal Revenue Service by stealing the identities of nearly 7,000 people, including more than 2,700 who were dead, to file fraudulent tax returns, according to federal prosecutors.
The case marks the latest federal crackdown on the escalating crime, which costs the U.S. government billions of dollars every year. Earlier this week, the U.S. attorney’s office announced the recent prosecutions of 14 defendants in similar fraud cases.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said the double-barreled crime of ID theft coupled with tax refund scams is the “new Medicare fraud” in South Florida.
Florida has the highest rate of identity theft in the country, with 178 complaints per 100,000 residents last year, followed by Georgia, with 120 complaints per 100,000 residents, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Ferrer noted that ID theft is the force behind the “tsunami” of tax-refund fraud. He added that Florida’s rate is “dwarfed” by that in the Miami area, with 324 complaints per 100,000 residents.
“While identity theft in Florida ranks highest in the United States, the identity theft rate in Miami has reached near-epidemic proportions,” Ferrer said last fall, after forming a strike force with federal agencies and local police to target the pernicious problem...
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