Judge Mark E. Fuller, September 24th 2013

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John Owens introduced District Judge Mark Fuller who presented a very interesting program on Identity Theft and Tax Fraud. Judge Fuller says this is a very frustrating and growing problem. There are $11 Billion in fraudulent tax returns filed annually. $6 Billion have been effectively stopped, but that still leaves $5 Billion that were paid! Amazingly enough, Montgomery is #2 in the US on the list of top cities for identity theft! #1 is Miami and #3 is Tampa.

After Hurricane Katrina, fraud jumped considerably with callers who called in with other peoples name address and SSN and got FEMA funds. Many elderly people were fooled by people posing as agents to assist them. The Agents gave only a small percentage of the funds to the person and kept thousands for themselves.

Judge Fuller told of the US vs. James Moss & party on a tax scheme where a business by the name of Flash Tax was set up to file tax returns. There was actually a location in Tuscaloosa. Montgomery and Birmingham had locations as well, and the company targeted poor people and advertised “Maximum Refund” where they charged $500.00 to file, but coached people on their response to the questions in order to get thousands on their return. Basically they set up their offices with nice looking young ladies and all they did was use TurboTax, manipulating the system and made $500 per person!

Ten years ago there were approximately 100 cases of tax fraud annually, but not in our electronic world – there are rarely less than 1000. From 2005 – 2007 more than 4,000 fraudulent returns were filed defrauding the government of over $7 million from this one company alone. Moss got 13 years and $121,000 in fined, but he was not satisfied and wanted more so it was only a matter of time before he was at it again.

Another case involved Veronica Dale and AL Chico Grant – a notorious drug dealer in a scheme where they stole identities from a list of disability recipients through an inside connection who supplied the list. Grant had previously sold crack cocaine. When he was busted, the Government asked for his & hers matching Mercedes which they gladly gave up in return for their freedom. They started up again the next tax season, with more than $3 million in refunds. They used Wi-Fi hotspots so the IP address was untraceable. In 2010 they were arrested again and bonded out and started back up in 2011. This time they were imprisoned but this was after $14 million had been paid out in tax returns. AL Chico received 310 months, and Dale received 334 months.

AL Chico was brave enough to have a “give back” party for his cronies once he got out!

Yet another scheme involved prepaid debit cards in the case of US vs. Ramos. Ms. Ramos purchased identities from a list of patients that had been treated at Troy Hospital and from DHR from a personal friend. The list had SSN and DOB information and tax returns were filed from these identities. They went to ATM machines with the prepaid cards that the Federal Government had loaded with the return and withdrew from the account until it was empty. 7,000 stolen identities were used in this scam. In addition she had an internet hijacking scam where identities of 17 – 19 year olds who had not yet entered the workforce – identities were stolen and returns filed. Once they file their first return, the will have a big surprise when they find out that they owe thousands from what has to be paid pack. Disgusting, right? One of the patients that had been treated at the hospital in Troy had a top secret security clearance, a six figure income from a Government contractor and was in the Air National Guard. He lost it all.

Judge Fuller recommended being signed on with a credit monitoring service and making sure your homeowner’s policy covers identity theft liability. DO NOT give out your SSN to anyone (like at the Dry’s Office) only give the last 4 digits. Be prepared – not surprised!



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