From 2005 to 2014, five men were allegedly trying to defraud the government through a tax return scheme that involved identity theft. The fraud could have been worse, as the prosecutor in Pennsylvania said that the men tried to get more than $20 million in total but were actually only paid around $10 million.
The five men involved were indicted in Pittsburgh for the alleged crimes. The prosecutor said thousands of people were victimized over the course of the scheme. According to the report, the men started by stealing different forms of identification, such as Social Security cards or driver's licenses. After they had them, they took those ID cards to banks -- in Pennsylvania and in other states -- and used them to start up new bank accounts.
With these bank accounts open for a deposit, they created tax returns that they also put in the names of their victims.
The authorities have reported that they did not recover all of the money, as some of it had already been distributed in various ways. A portion of the money was sent to Nigeria, and some of it was spent.
When facing conspiracy and fraud charges on such a grand scale, those who have been accused do have a right to plead their own innocence and fight the charges if they so desire. All who are arrested and subjected to a court case have this basic right to representation so that they will have a chance to clear their name. It is quite important for them not to overlook their own rights, even when the federal government is doing the prosecution.
Source: The Houston Chronicle, "Prosecutor: ID theft scheme cost US Treasury $10M" Kevin Begos, Apr. 23, 2014