Last year, we wrote about how a significant number of students at Miami Dade College had been arrested for and charged with crimes relating to tax fraud, after they were paid small fees in exchange for allowing others to store illegally received tax refunds in their student bank accounts.
As our Delray Beach and Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys know, the first group of 18 Miami Dade College students who were indicted and charged last year in relation to the tax crimes have started to receive their sentences.
While most of the students have received elatively lenient sentences such as probation, community service and periods of house arrest, one student in particular received more than four years in federal prison for his role in the scheme.
Each year, tax fraud crimes cost the U.S. government (and the victims of the crimes) more than $5 billion, which is generally regarded as a conservative estimate given that there are clearly tax crimes that go undetected and thus unreported. Though it was (in the grand scheme of things) a relatively minor scheme, this case of tax fraud did net about $1.9 million, illegally, in IRS tax refunds. Basically, as our Delray Beach and Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers explained last year, defendants used stolen identities of about 650 individuals to file false reports and obtain the money, $500,000 of which was deposited into student Higher One educational bank accounts held by Miami Dade College students.
One might assume that the fraudsters figured that using student bank accounts would prove less risky; perhaps, they thought that going to a “traditional” bank would expose them to more strict oversight and reporting requirements. Unfortunately for the ill-advised students, as our Delray Beach and Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers know, their online bank accounts were and are actually operated by traditional, national banks (such as Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, etc.).
We noted in a blog post last year that almost all of the students charged with the tax fraud crime faced between two (2) and ten (10) years in prison upon conviction. Nearly all of them have pleaded guilty and have received relatively light sentences, such as two years of probation, community service requirements, etc. Some have received tougher punishments; the most severe to be handed out in this round of sentences, a more than four-year prison sentence, went to an individual who recruited another student and persuaded her to let him use her bank account. The student who will apparently be spending 4+ years in prison submitted 62 falsified tax refund claim, seeking roughly $345,000 between 2012 and 2013. The classmate whose bank account was used to store the money received 5 years of probation.
While these apparently light sentences might seem like a light at the end of the tunnel, local authorities have been clear about the fact that more cases are being reviewed. In other words, charges for more involved students are likely.
If you have any questions about this tax fraud case, or if you have been arrested for or charged with a crime in Palm Beach, Broward or Miami-Dade County, please contact our Delray Beach and Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers at Leifert & Leifert by calling 1-888-5-DEFEND (1-888-533-3363) to schedule a free consultation. We look forward to assisting you.