Criminal Justice News

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Two Floridians Charged in Tax Refund Scheme Using Stolen Identities

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office; José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID); Paula Reid, Special Agent in Charge, United States Secret Service (USSS), Miami Field Office; Henry Gutierrez, Postal Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Miami Division; and Addy Villanueva, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, announced the unsealing of a 15-count indictment charging Sabrina Balkman-Bradwell, 47, formerly of Hialeah, Florida, and Edwin Bonannee, 32, of Hollywood, Florida, in connection with their participation in a tax refund scheme that used stolen identities. Balkman-Bradwell was arrested earlier today in Waverly, Florida and made her initial appearance in federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Jenkins in Tampa, Florida. Bonannee is expected to make his initial appearance later this week in Ft. Lauderdale before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Seltzer.

More specifically, the indictment charges the defendants with one count of conspiracy to defraud the government, four counts of mail fraud, five counts of stealing government funds (income tax refunds), and five counts of aggravated identity theft. If convicted, the defendants face a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on the conspiracy count, 20 years on the mail fraud counts, 10 years on the theft of government funds counts, and two years consecutive to the other sentences on the aggravated identity theft charges.

According to the allegations in the indictment, defendants Balkman-Bradwell and Bonannee obtained tax refunds to which they were not entitled by using, or recruiting others to use, stolen identities of real persons, including some deceased, to file for refund claims in the victims’ names. To execute the scheme, the defendants and others used stolen Social Security numbers and manufactured IRS Form W-2 Wage and Tax Statements with false employer information, income, and withholding amounts. The defendants used and recruited others to use the stolen and false documentation to prepare and cause the electronic filing of false U.S. Individual Income Tax Returns in the names of the identity theft victims. The defendants then caused the IRS to send the refund checks to addresses and bank accounts that they controlled.

In this way, defendants Balkman-Bradwell and Bonannee allegedly caused 32 false tax refund claims to be filed with the IRS. Many of these claims were filed via multiple Electronic Filing Identification Numbers, tax preparers, and business names. The defendants received tax refund checks totaling approximately $108,496.

The indictment also alleges that defendant Bonannee caused another 46 false claims for income tax refunds to be filed with the IRS and caused electronic deposits into bank accounts he controlled under the names DM Homeless Shelter LLC and D.B., totaling approximately $108,188.53. Defendant Balkman-Bradwell allegedly caused multiple false claims for income tax refunds to be filed with the IRS and obtained approximately 1,712 income tax refund checks and electronic deposits, totaling approximately $5,638,409.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of FBI, IRS-CID, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Mr. Ferrer also thanked the Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General, for its assistance in this matter. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Karadbil.

An indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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