Nineteen Arrested in Major Tax Fraud Scam
Deputies have arrested 19 suspects who defrauded local taxpayers and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Polk County Sheriff’s Office Tax Fraud investigators discovered 399 fraudulent identities and uncovered $476,000 that had been fradulently obtained from the IRS.
Today’s arrests are a continuation of a 2011 investigation that led to the September 13, 2011, arrest of 41-year-old Licensed Practical Nurse Cathy L. McClain, of Sunway Lane in Winter Haven, and the August 16, 2011, arrest of 30-year-old Derail Bess, of Brookshire Drive in Davenport.
McClain worked at the Brandywyne Nursing home as a LPN. She provided Derail Bess with 83 identities that belonged to residents of the nursing home. Bess used 18 of the victims’ identities to obtain $87,722 from the IRS. Bess was convicted and sentenced to 5 years in prison, 20 years probation and restitution. McClain has not yet been sentenced.
In addition to Bess and McClain, detectives have arrested six others since September, 2011, on charges ranging from identity theft, grand theft, forgery, and illegal use of a debit card. Eleven others were arrested today on similar charges.
Investigators said, the suspects would illegally acquire or steal identities – name, social security and date of birth – then file fraudulent tax returns, making up financial data that will result in a high tax return amount. Tax refunds are then received from the IRS made out to the stolen identity in one of the followin ways, eith a federal check in the mail or refunds directly deposited into a bank account. The suspects then converted payments into purchases, cash or money orders via financial institutions or retailers.
“These thieves are stealing identities from individuals: nursing home residents, dead people, and unsuspecting citizens. Ultimately, they are stealing all of us—federal taxpayers—blind. They are shamelessly lying and filing false tax returns and the IRS is sending them money, literally no questions asked,” said Sheriff Grady Judd.
The investigation is ongoing.