Criminal Justice News

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tampa Woman Pleads Guilty to Tax Fraud and Identity Theft

TAMPA—Arswaya Ralph (33, Riverview) pled guilty today to filing a false claim with the Internal Revenue Service and identity theft. She faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison for the false claim charge and 15 years in federal prison for the identity theft charge.

According to the plea agreement, on June 2, 2011, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Ralph’s home in Riverview. The search warrant was predicated upon an investigation that established that Ralph and others were filing fraudulent federal income tax returns with stolen identities, in order to obtain refunds from the Internal Revenue Service. The investigation also revealed that Ralph attended and hosted “Drop Parties” during which she and others electronically filed numerous fraudulent income tax returns simultaneously.

During the search of Ralph’s residence, law enforcement agents recovered approximately $31,387 in U.S. currency, approximately 42 reloadable debit cards, two laptop computers, and approximately 12 handwritten ledgers. The ledgers contained numerous individuals’ names, dates of births, Social Security numbers, personal identification numbers for online tax filing services, and other financial information including bank account and routing numbers. Agents also seized designer clothing, shoes, luggage, handbags, electronics, and a pink firearm. The total value of the items seized substantially exceeded Ralph’s buying power based upon her reported legitimate income of $0 for the 2011 tax year.

Ralph admitted that she had been filing fraudulent tax returns using other people’s names and identifying information since approximately August or September 2010. She further stated that, among other things, she had purchased a 2010 Buick Lacrosse with the fraudulent refund monies.

At least 65 fraudulent tax returns for the 2010 tax year, which were electronically transmitted and accepted for filing with the IRS, were found on Ralph’s laptop computer. These 65 false claims resulted in an intended loss of $467,781. The names and Social Security numbers listed on these 65 fraudulent returns were also found in one of the ledgers recovered from Ralph’s bedroom during the search.

This case was investigated by the United States Secret Service, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, and the Tampa Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mandy Riedel.

This case is being prosecuted as part of Operation Rainmaker, a coordinated effort by various federal and local law enforcement agencies to combat the filing of false tax returns in the Tampa Bay region. Agencies participating in Operation Rainmaker include the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, the U.S. Secret Service, IRS, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Tampa Police Department, and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

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