A federal grand jury returned indictments against 16 people, according to federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh and Erie. The announcement came on Feb. 2.
Law enforcement officers allege that the 16 people used stolen identity information from more than 11,000 people to open bank accounts, file fraudulent tax returns and claim nearly $38 million in tax refunds. Of the $38 million in claimed refunds, the IRS reportedly paid more than $10 million.
The people involved allegedly used the identities of people they had determined were unlikely to file their tax returns. The years for the returns spanned from 2010 to 2013. Authorities were still locating all of the indicted people, although the two that are apparently facing the greatest number of charges were indicted in March 2014. The key defendants, a 53-year-old Rhode Island resident and a 50-year-old New York resident, are facing up to 38 and 36 years in prison respectively. The other people who have been charged are facing up to 20 years in federal prison.
White-collar crimes can result in significant sentences to incarceration if those who are charged are convicted. In federal court, the sentences may be longer, and courts sentence according to the federal sentencing guidelines. People who are accused of white-collar offenses may benefit by seeking the help of a criminal defense attorney who has experience defending against such allegations. Such cases often involve thousands of pages of bank records and other documents investigators used to trace the crimes. An attorney may be able to review the available paper work in the case in order to identify possible defenses. They may also be able to present the prosecutor with mitigating information in order to secure a favorable plea to a non-incarceration sentence.
Source: News & Observer, "Grand jury indicts 16 in identity theft, tax return scam," Joe Mandak, Feb. 3, 2015