Taxed Out


Can you really have too much of a good thing? For example, have you ever eaten too much – like a whole box of cookies – and found yourself regretting it? Food is just one example. But, fraudsters can sometimes have too much of a good thing too – they don’t know when enough stealing is enough. According to an Arkansas Business article, one Alabama couple found their tax refund fraud scam was too much of a good thing and were ”taxed out” for the season.

Tax season, usually peaking in the early spring, is a testing time for accountants and fraudsters alike. With the creation of tax software, the ease of submitting your own taxes has brought along a more convenient ease for defrauding the U.S. government. (It’s an exhausting time for those of us stopping and preventing such frauds too!) The hard work of investigators paid off when an Alabama couple pleaded guilty to filing a false claim, stealing refund money and identity theft, all stemming from tax software-fueled fraud. The couple faces 10 years in prison each, as well as fines of up to $250,000. In addition, the husband of the dynamic duo faces a mandatory two years for aggravated identity theft, against his son. (All families have their issues, but a couple that steals their son’s identity to commit fraud may need to talk things out.) But, how much became ”too much of a good thing” for the daring and defrauding duo?

During the plea agreement, the husband admitted that both he and his wife prepared around 200 bogus income tax returns using the names, birth dates and Social Security numbers of other people. Out of those 200 false tax returns, they received money for 56. (That’s a 28% success rate. Was this really a good thing for them?) The couple took the money from the 56 ”successful” fraudulent returns and placed it in a bank account that was opened in the name of the wife’s son. The couple had ”too much of their good thing” when investigators tallied their theft to $132,000 in their fraudulent tax refunds.

Now that I think about it, a box full of cookies isn’t nearly as bad as owing $132,000 plus fines and jail time to the U.S. government. But here is a thought provoking question? ”Can catching too many fraudsters be too much of a good thing?”

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Boone County Couple Admits Tax Refund Fraud,” written by Glen Mortiz and published by Arkansas Business on June 5, 2013.

A Boone County couple pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to using Turbo Tax software to steal more than $132,000 in fraudulent tax refunds, U.S. Attorney Conner Eldridge announced.

Owen Wheeler, 37, and Patricia Wheeler, 51, of Everton, had been indicted in March on 10 counts of filing false claims for tax refunds and 10 counts of stealing federal tax refund money. Owen Wheeler was additionally charged with a single count of aggravated identity theft for setting up a bank account in the name of his wife’s son in order to have a place to deposit the fraudulent refunds.


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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.