Always Ask Questions


If something sounds too good to be true, be suspicious and ask questions. A story in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution tells about how a Georgia tax preparer convinced 5,000 unsuspecting victims to let him submit their tax returns as part of a $5 million tax refund fraud scheme. (I’m guessing his customers are probably wishing they had asked a few more questions before signing on the dotted line.)

The man, who allegedly operated his own tax business, recruited his clients by promising them an ”Obama stimulus payment” or ”free government money.” Further research revealed that he purportedly convinced his customers to submit their personal information, including Social Security numbers, names, dates of birth through paper applications and a toll free number. (This is the point at which his unsuspecting victims should have asked more questions.)

For more than one year, the tax preparer submitted thousands of phony tax returns and had the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) deposit the refunds into multiple bank accounts. Supposedly, the fraudster split the refunds in half with his clients.

The 38-year-old was convicted of aggravated identity theft, filing false claims and money laundering. He will serve 20 years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release. In addition, he will pay more than $5 million in restitution and forfeit the balances of seven bank accounts involved in the scheme.

It looks like this fraudster is getting a fair punishment for his deceptive practices. Unfortunately, his victims fell for the offer of ”free” money. (Can you really get anything for free without paying a price of some sort?) This scheme came with a high price tag for both the perpetrator and the victims. (The fraudster will be spending a considerable time behind bars, while his victims and the rest of us taxpayers will help to foot the bill for his prison stay.) Perhaps this experience will serve as an example for others who are after easy money: 1) Don’t commit fraud – you will pay for your crime, and 2) Avoid becoming a victim by asking lots of questions. If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Cobb County Man Sentenced to 20 Years for ID Theft, Tax Fraud,” written by Alexis Stevens and published by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on August 25, 2014.

A Cobb County man was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for stealing the identities of thousands of people to file bogus tax refunds claiming more than $5 million, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Monday.

Mauricio Warner, 38, of Smyrna, was convicted in April of 16 counts of wire fraud, 16 counts of aggravated identity theft, 16 counts of filing false claims, and two counts of money laundering, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported. On Monday, Warner was sentenced to prison followed by three years of supervised release, and must pay $5,041,869 in restitution, U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said. He must also forfeit seven bank accounts containing money from the scheme, Yates said.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.