One might not ordinarily associate Miami Dade College student accounts with massive identity theft/tax fraud, but recent charges filed against 18 current and former Miami Dade students purport to show that there was a major overlap between the two.
South Florida played host to a scheme in which identity thieves used student educational accounts intended to receive financial aid from the state to file fraudulent (stolen) income tax returns. When the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued tax refunds, the student accounts were used as a place to deposit the money.
Our Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade County criminal defense lawyers know that this is an incredibly complicated case and the legal defense of the students requires shifting the perspective. Instead of viewing these students as hardened criminals, might we be able to see them as victims, taken advantage of by the planners of the scheme?
According to the U.S. attorney handling the case, a total of 21 individuals (including the 18 students) had been charged in the fraudulent scheme, which involved an intended loss of roughly $2,000,000 to the IRS, although just about a quarter of that was actually refunded. Per reports on the case, there have been more than 640 individuals victimized by identity theft in connection with the tax fraud system being operated by identity thieves and, it appears, Miami Dade College students.
As our criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert know, most of the individuals arrested, according to the applicable law, face between two (2) and ten (10) years in prison if convicted.
The IRS has pointed out that Florida, and South Florida specifically, is the leading location in the U.S. for identity theft for tax fraud purposes. Many of these crimes are carried out in ways that victimize the elderly, whom identity thieves knowingly take advantage of. This appears to be a case in which three masterminds of the scheme took advantage of another subset of the population: inevitably cash-strapped college students, who were paid a fee for allowing their accounts to be used.
It’s possible to think of the student accounts as simply the hiding spot for the money fraudulently obtained by the individuals running the tax fraud scheme — while the college students’ involvement certainly doesn’t reflect well upon them, the fact that these are young individuals who might very likely have simply been taken advantage of for their access to state-sponsored financial accounts should be taken into consideration in the prosecution, defense and, if it gets to that point, sentencing.
College students trying to better their lives deserve better than to have been caught up in a tax fraud ring operated by people with no regard for their identity theft victims or the students whose accounts they used to launder the money.
If you have been arrested for or charged with a crime in Palm Beach, Broward or Miami-Dade County, please contact our skilled criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert to schedule a free consultation by calling 1-888-5-DEFEND (1-888-533-3363). We look forward to assisting you.