U.S. Attorney's Office
Southern District of Florida
(305) 961-9001
November 18, 2014

Seventeen Charged Today in Connection with Stolen Identity Tax Refund Fraud Scheme Involving Student Financial Services Accounts

Seventeen individuals were arrested today, 14 of whom are or were students at Miami Dade College, for their involvement in a stolen identity tax refund fraud scheme that utilized students’ Higher One financial services accounts. A total of 21 individuals were charged, four individuals remain at large. The scheme announced today implicated 644 victims and resulted in an aggregate intended loss amount of $1.9 million. Today’s cases reaffirm the government’s commitment to crack-down on the perpetrators of stolen identity tax refund fraud (SIRF).

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Kelly R. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, Ronald J. Verrochio, Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Miami Division, Thomas J. Caul, Special Agent in Charge, Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General, made the announcement.

Background of Investigation

This investigation implicates a tax refund fraud scheme that utilized over 1,000 student accounts at Miami Dade College. As alleged in the indictments, the defendants, 18 of whom are or were students at Miami Dade College, were involved in a scheme to steal tax refunds issued by the United States Department of Treasury. Using stolen identities, the defendants or their co-conspirators submitted fraudulent tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service. These tax returns directed that the resulting refunds be deposited into various bank accounts controlled by the defendants.

Most of the bank accounts used to collect the stolen money were serviced by a company called Higher One, Inc. This company provided financial services to colleges and universities throughout the United States, including Miami Dade College in Florida.

In United States v. Sandy Jean-Louis, tax refunds issued to 37 different victim-taxpayers were deposited into a single defendant’s account with Higher One. In United States v. Erving Etienne, organizers of the scheme directed 92 tax refundsinto a single Higher One account. Fortunately, the IRS rejected 90% of these returns based upon suspected fraud. Ultimately, as established by testimony at trial of United States v. Kevin Cimeus, 13-20706-CR-Zloch, over 1,000 Higher One accounts have been implicated by the investigation.

Organizers of this fraud also sought to use students’ Higher One accounts to commit other forms of federal benefit fraud including social security fraud. For instance, in United States v. Glasner Simplice, the defendant allowed his Higher One account to receive $53,272.00 in stolen tax refunds and his TD Bank account to receive stolen tax refunds and $19,099.10 in fraudulently obtained social security administration benefits.

United States Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Today’s takedown is further evidence of the insidious and widespread nature of stolen identity tax refund fraud. That this crime has infiltrated life at a college is alarming. As a community, we cannot permit this type of crime to negatively affect young people and their prospects while in college. In addition to prosecuting those who fraudulently use the identities of others for financial gain, we will be working closely with Miami Dade College—and any other educational institution—to help educate students that selling the use of their student bank accounts to facilitate fraud is criminal and carries serious consequences.”

“Students attend college to give themselves a better chance for a successful future. These students, however, are accused of federal crimes that could land them in prison and tarnish their records forever,” stated Kelly R. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation. “As we approach the next tax filing season, let me warn others not to be enticed to participate in this type of criminal behavior to make a few dollars. People who steal identities to file false tax returns and receive fraudulent refunds will be subject to prosecution. IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to continuing our work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners to bring the individuals who commit these crimes to justice.”

“Identity theft is a serious and growing crime that destroys the financial lives of thousands of South Floridians every year,” said George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Miami. “Those arrested today were part of a Miami-based group who systematically hacked into numerous businesses and government institutions. Once inside, they stole personally identifiable information from unsuspecting victims to unlawfully file tax returns and redirect Social Security payments. The fraudsters subsequently utilized over 1,000 college student loan accounts in order to deposit illicit funds and launder the ill gotten money. No more. The FBI and our law enforcement partners will investigate and criminally prosecute such fraud to the fullest extent of the law.”

Ronald Verrochio, Inspector in Charge for Postal Inspection Service, stated “We are committed to combating this type of ID theft which affects millions of Americans annually. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate these cases and deliver justice to the victims.”

Thomas J. Caul, Special Agent in Charge, Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General said “The Office of the Inspector General, Social Security Administration, has no higher priority than the investigation and prosecution of those who prey on the public, denying the victims of the needed support provided by government programs. I’m grateful that the U.S. Attorney’s Office shares our determination to ensure the integrity of SSA’s programs.

Scope of SIRF Problem

According to the Federal Trade Commission, Florida had the highest rate of identity theft in the United States in 2013. While identity theft in Florida ranks highest in the United States, the identity theft rate in Miami has reached near epidemic proportions. Florida’s rate of 192.9 complaints per 100,000 residents—the highest in the United States—is dwarfed by the Miami rate of 340.4 complaints per 100,000 residents.

Moreover, a September 2012 report by the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) determined that Florida has the highest rate of stolen identity tax refund fraud in the United States. The City of Miami’s per capita number of false returns based on identity theft was 46 times the national average, and its per capita SIRF value was more than 70 times the national average. Worse still, this problem is projected to grow: the TIGTA report estimates that the IRS could issue as much as $21 billion in fraudulent tax refunds over the next five years.

Cases Announced Today

The cases being announced today are:

  • United States v. Gary Antoine, Case No. 14-20666-CR-Williams;
  • United States v. Emmanuel Avrilien, Gerrey Cherrelus, Sandy Jean-Louis, Marie Joseph, Andy Lamour, & Tamica Smith, Case No. 14-20829-CR-Moore;
  • United States v. Marvin Dubuisson, Case No. 14-20828-CR-Altonaga;
  • United States v. Ronald Dumond & Bianca Noel, Case No. 14-20844-CR-Scola;
  • United States v. Erving Jaques Etienne, Case No. 14-20826-CR-Cooke;
  • United States v. Mitsie Faustin, Case No. 14-20747-CR-Middlebrooks;
  • United States v. Caleb Fadet, Case No. 14-20665-CR-Gayles
  • United States v. Laquisha Q. Johnson, Case No. 14-20837-CR-Martinez;
  • United States v. Jonathan Joseph, Case No. 14-20831-CR-Scola;
  • United States v. Beethoven Nelson, Case No. 14-20751-CR-Altonaga;
  • United States v. Farah Norelus, Case No. 14-20753-CR-Ungaro;
  • United States v. Smith Jean & Beatrice Simeon, Case No. 14-20830-CR-Ungaro;
  • United States v. Glasner Simplice, Case No. 14-20689-CR-Williams; and
  • United States v. Rutherford Willy, Case No. 14-20752-CR-King.

The following is a brief summary of a few of the matters:

  • United States v. Caleb Fadet, Case No. 14-20665-CR-Gayles

On September 16, 2014, Caleb Fadet, 27, of Miami Beach, was charged in a twelve-count indictment for receiving stolen tax refunds. Each count charged the defendant with theft of government property, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641.

According to the indictment, Fadet, a student at Miami Dade College, opened a bank account serviced by Higher One, Inc. After opening this account, tax refunds issued to 12 different victim-taxpayers were direct deposited into Fadet’s account. These deposits included seven refunds that were deposited into Fadet’s account on a single day—November 15, 2012. Ultimately, $10,440.00-worth of refunds was deposited into the defendant’s account.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Identity Theft Tax Refund Strike Force, with special commendation to IRS-CI and FBI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John R. Byrne.

  • United States v. Laquisha Q. Johnson, Case No. 14-20827-CR-Martinez

On November 13, 2014, Laquisha Q. Johnson, 24, of Opa Locka, was charged in a three-count indictment for receiving stolen tax refunds. Each count charged the defendant with theft of government property, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641.

According to the indictment, Johnson was a student at Miami Dade College. During her time as a student, Johnson opened a bank account serviced by Higher One, Inc. After opening this account, tax refunds issued to three different victim-taxpayers were direct deposited into Johnson’s account. This included a tax refund of $61,000.00 that had been issued to a victim-taxpayer with the initials E.R.L. Ultimately, $63,000.00-worth of refunds was deposited into the defendant’s account.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Identity Theft Tax Refund Strike Force, with special commendation to IRS-CI and FBI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John R. Byrne.

  • United States v. Emmanuel Avrilien, Andy Lamour, Sandy Jean-Louis, Tamica Smith, Marie Joseph, and Gerrey Cherrelus, Case No. 14-20829-CR-Moore

On November 13, 2014, defendants Emmanuel Avrilien, 22, Andy Lamour, 22, Sandy Jean-Louis, 21, Tamica Smith, 26, Marie Joseph, 25, and Gerrey Cherrelus, 22, all of Miami, were charged in a forty-count indictment with conspiring to steal tax refunds and stealing tax refunds. The defendants allowed their bank accounts to receive stolen tax refunds in the total amount of $98,481.00, which they then used for their own benefit.

Defendants were charged with conspiracy to steal government property and theft of government property, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 371 and 641.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Identity Theft Tax Refund Strike Force, with special commendation to IRS-CI, FBI, and USPIS. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gera Peoples.

  • United States v. Ronald Dumond and Bianca Noel, Case No. 14-20844-CR-Scola

On November 13, 2014, defendants Ronald Dumond, 22, and Bianca Noel, 21, of Miami, were charged in an eighteen-count indictment with conspiring to steal tax refunds, receiving stolen tax refunds, and aggravated identity theft relating to stolen tax refunds. Defendants allowed their Higher One accounts to receive stolen tax refunds in the total amount of $29,751.00, which the defendants used for their own benefit.

Defendants were charged with conspiracy to steal government property and theft of government property, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 371 and 641, and defendant Dumond was charged with aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Identity Theft Tax Refund Strike Force, with special commendation to IRS-CI and FBI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gera Peoples.

  • United States v. Glasner Simplice, Case No. 14-20689-CR-Williams

On September 23, 2014, defendant Glasner Simplice, 20, of Miami, was charged in twenty-count indictment with conspiring to steal tax refunds and social security administration benefits. Defendant allowed his account with Higher One to receive stolen tax refunds in the total amount of $53,272.00, and his personal TD Bank account to receive stolen social security administration benefits in the total amount of $19,099.10, all of which Simplice used for his own benefit.

Defendant was charged with conspiracy to steal government property and theft of government property, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 371 and 641.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Identity Theft Tax Refund Strike Force, with special commendation to IRS-CI, FBI, and SSA. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gera Peoples.

Other Law Enforcement Partners

Mr. Ferrer thanked the investigative efforts and assistance of U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Department of Labor-OIG, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud, and U.S. Department of Education, each of whom assisted with the investigation.

Additionally, Aventura Police Department, North Miami Beach Police Department, Fort Lauderdale Police Department, and Miramar Police Department were instrumental in the arrests this morning.

Information on Deterring, Detecting, and Defending SIRF

We encourage anyone with information about the widespread abuse of Higher One accounts to contact the IRS at (305) 982-5151.

For information on how to help deter, detect, and defend against identity theft, please visit www.irs.gov (enter “identity theft” in search box), www.ftc.gov or www.ic3.gov or contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.

An indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

This content has been reproduced from its original source.