Former Police Department Employee Indicted for Tax Fraud, Computer Intrusion, and Identity Theft
TAMPA, FL—United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces the unsealing of an indictment charging Tonia Bright with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of obtaining information from a protected computer, and four counts of aggravated identity theft related to her involvement in a stolen identity refund fraud (SIRF) scheme. If convicted, she faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison on the conspiracy charge, five years in federal prison on each of the computer intrusion offenses, and a two-year term of imprisonment for each aggravated identity theft count that would be served consecutively to the sentence imposed on the other counts. The indictment also notifies Bright that the United States intends to seek a forfeiture money judgment equal to the proceeds of the offenses.
According to the indictment, Bright was a civilian employee of the Tampa Police Department (TPD) working as a community service officer in the District 3 station. As part of her duties, Bright took reports from citizens related to incidents not requiring the response of a sworn police officer. In this capacity, she had access to local, state, and federal law enforcement databases, including the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) computerized index. Her use of these databases was restricted to the performance of her authorized duties.
As part of the conspiracy, Bright allegedly accessed the personally identifiable information (PII) of individuals using a variety of sources, including NCIC, despite having no legitimate law enforcement purpose for doing so. She then provided the stolen PII to others, including Tampa resident Rita Girven, knowing that the information would be used to commit crimes. Girven and others used the stolen PII to electronically file, and cause others to file, fraudulent federal income tax returns claiming tax refunds that they were not entitled to. The fraudulently obtained tax refunds were deposited onto reloadable debit cards, issued in the conspirators’ names and the names of others, including the identity theft victims’ names. Girven and others then used the debit cards at retail establishments and ATMs to withdraw the funds and shared in the proceeds.
Girven previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. Her sentencing hearing is scheduled for November 20, 2015.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service—Criminal Investigation Division, the Tampa Police Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mandy Riedel.