Decoupling Fraud

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What do Bonnie and Clyde, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Frank and Jesse James, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and more recently, the Menendez brothers and the DC Snipers have in common? These criminal duos committed some of the most notorious crimes in modern history. Today’s “Fraud of the Day” focuses on a married couple from Pittsburgh who committed identity theft and tax return fraud. While this duo’s crimes were not as violent, heinous or notable as those mentioned before, the government still pursued and successfully prosecuted the husband and wife team, who stole more than $720,000 from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The Pittsburgh couple was part of an even larger scheme that also involved nine others. (Two of the co-conspirators were from Texas, while seven were from California, where the husband of the fraudulent duo was a former policeman.) For four months, the husband and wife obtained and used the names of deceased individuals to electronically file false tax returns in the victims’ names. Altogether, the loss to the IRS totaled $720,530.40. (A search of one co-conspirator’s residence uncovered $237,394 worth of uncashed U.S. Treasury checks.)

The former California police officer and his wife collected their victims’ names, dates of birth, and Social Security Numbers (SSN) from ancestry and SSN validation websites. (It’s amazing what you can find online. You just have to know where to look.) The husband assisted with the filing of the bogus tax returns and directed the tax refunds to be mailed to addresses he and co-conspirators controlled. His participation in the scheme also involved him travelling to Los Angeles to obtain the stolen checks and then visiting Walmart stores in multiple regions, including Kentucky, to cash them. (Two of the co-conspirators were employees at the big-box store.)

The wife, who was a teacher at a Pittsburgh-area school at the time of arrest, assisted in the scheme by having another co-conspirator send her photos for two of the U.S. Treasury checks so she could have fake IDs made. (Just the type of person you want influencing your children.) After she received the fake IDs, she cashed two of the tax refund checks and kept the funds. (I doubt she used the funds to buy school supplies for her students.)

The 39-year-old man and his 37-year-old wife both pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme to steal money from the U.S. The man was charged with conspiracy to commit theft of public money, four counts of wire fraud, and four counts of aggravated identity theft. (He pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge and wire fraud charges, but the identity theft charges were dismissed due to his plea agreement.) His wife pleaded guilty to all charges including conspiracy to commit theft of public money, two counts of theft of public money and two counts of identity theft.

If all fraudsters took the time to look up the punishment for their crimes before proceeding, perhaps there would be less fraud. Consider that these two are facing a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for conspiracy to commit theft of public money; a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for theft of public money; a maximum of 20 years behind bars for wire fraud, plus a fine of $250,000; and, a mandatory two-year prison sentence for aggravated identity theft and a fine of $250,000.

While these two Pittsburgh residents will not be added to the list of notorious criminals, this is another successful prosecution that can be added to the fraud history books. The identity theft and tax return fraud scheme has effectively been decoupled by the government and these criminals will be sentenced appropriately for their illegal acts.

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, Former Antioch Police Officer and Wife, a Pittsburg Teacher Plead Guilty in Tax Fraud Schemepublished by Contra Costa Herald on June 15, 2017.

OAKLAND – The U.S. Justice Department’s Northern District of California announced, today, Thursday, June 15, 2017 that former Antioch police officer Gary Bostick and his wife, Ana Bostick, pleaded guilty to their respective roles in a scheme to illegally obtain money from the United States announced United States Attorney Brian J. Stretch and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Special Agent in Charge Michael T. Batdorf.

Also indicted in the conspiracy were nine others, including three other residents of Contra Costa County. The indictment, unsealed on Dec. 9, 2015, charges the following additional defendants:

  • Hugh Robinson, of Richmond
  • Devonnie Davison, of San Pablo
  • Brandon Robinson, of El Cerrito
  • Ronald Blake, of Fort Worth, TX
  • Kyadrian Dennis, of Fort Worth, TX
  • William Odom, of Berkeley
  • Jamia Lewis, of Fairfield
  • Janel McDonald, of Los Angeles
  • Everardo Laurian, of Daly City
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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.