NEWARK – A New Brunswick man was sentenced Friday to 48 months in prison for his role in one of the nation’s largest and longest running stolen identity refund fraud schemes ever identified, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
The scheme caused more than 8,000 fraudulent U.S. income tax returns to be filed, which sought more than $65 million in tax refunds, and which resulted in losses to the United States of more than $12 million.
Manuel Rodriguez, 50, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi to conspiracy to defraud the United States, theft of government property and aggravated identity theft.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, Rodriguez and others obtained personal identifiers, such as dates of birth and Social Security numbers, belonging to Puerto Rican citizens. They used those identifiers to create fraudulent 1040 forms, which falsely reported wages purportedly earned by the “taxpayers” and taxes purportedly withheld, to create the appearance that the “taxpayers” were entitled to tax refunds. The returns were filed electronically. By tracing the specific IP addresses that submitted the electronically-filed 1040s, law enforcement officers learned that just a handful of IP addresses created many of the fraudulent 1040 forms that led to the issuance of tax refund checks.
During the course of the investigation, members of the task force identified certain “hot spots” of activity and intercepted more than $22 million in refund checks – that had been applied for fraudulently – before they were delivered to members of the conspiracy.
In addition to the prison term, Cecchi sentenced Rodriguez to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay restitution of $5.2 million.
Fishman praised special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Shantelle P. Kitchen; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge Marie L. Kelokates; the U.S. Secret Service, under the direction of Special Agent In Charge James Mottola; and the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Carl Kotowski, for the investigation leading to the sentencing.
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