A crafty scheme surfaced last year when an alleged suspect used false identification to rent a self storage unit at West End Self Storage in Miami. At some point, the man failed to pail his self storage bill which set off a whole string of events which is somewhat unbelievable.
According to documents filed in U.S. District Court, the alleged participants gained personal information from people who believed they were applying for employment advertised online. The alleged scammers took the job applicants information and filed phony tax returns through online tax services. The scammers allegedly sent at least 133 fake tax returns in 2010 and 2011 attempting to recover more than $700,000 in refunds. An assistant U.S. Attorney recently stated that there are at least 700 tax returns involved. At this time, it is unknown how many of the phony returns actually generated a return.
What set the wheels in motion according to documents was an unpaid bill at the self storage facility. The scheme seems to be a sophisticated multi-state scam to defraud the IRS out of nearly a million dollars. Information slowly surfacing states the police were called by storage facility management and told a unit was being rented by someone who was possibly using the storage unit under a false name.
Police arrived at the storage facility and encountered Ramoth Jean and a woman at the storage unit. Jean was removing cardboard boxes from the unit and said he was simply picking the box up in order to ship it to a friend in Boston. Jean, in probably a lapse of judgment, allowed police to search him. Upon searching Jean, police found a debit card in his shoe. The debit card had someone else’s name on it and Jean stated it belonged to his cousin. Jean was promptly arrested and police seized the cardboard box. A warrant was issued later to search the box and that is when it was determined to hold tax documents and correspondence mailed form the IRS and Turbo Tax to addresses in the Richmond area.
Police also found two laptops, a flash drive, CD’s, prepaid debit cards and index cards each containing personal information for about 800 people in several different states. A federal warrant was issued to search the computers and the searches showed Jean was accessing the computers in order to steal identities and use the new identities to file tax returns online and then obtain those income tax refunds for himself.
Grand jury subpoenas were served on small sampling of the debit cards which were seized and those turned out to be funded with income tax refunds. After the income tax refund was debited to the card, each card was then subsequently credited in order to remove the funds quickly from the card and get the cash out. Each cards balance was ultimately zero shortly after having income tax refunds debited to them. The totals on those cards came out to tens of thousands of dollars.
Ramoth Jean, of Miami, is indicted and plead not guilty to eight charges and a four day jury trial is set to start at the end of September. The charges include conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, five counts of mail fraud, access to device fraud and aggravated identity theft. He is the only alleged scammer identified so far.
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