Four men were arrested for allegedly participating in a nationwide identity theft scheme that allowed them to obtain millions of dollars in fraudulent tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Oregon Department of Revenue.
A warrant has been issued for the arrest of a fifth defendant, as well: Emmanuel Oluwatosin Kazeem, according to a Department of Justice press release. The men allegedly used the personal identity information of more than 125,000 individuals whose information they gained from a data breach at a database owned by a pre-employment and volunteer background check company in Oregon.
The scheme allegedly began in 2012 and since then, the defendants reportedly filed more than 980 false federal tax returns that sought to receive more than $6.6 million in fraudulent returns. The IRS rejected $4.6 million of the claim returns, however.
The indictment states that when the IRS rejected their tax applications, the group then created another return after changing some of the information from the initial rejected return.
They received the tax return money through prepaid debit cards and third-party bank accounts.
Each of the five defendants is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, seven counts of mail fraud, six counts of wire fraud and thirteen counts of aggravated identity theft. The fraud and conspiracy charges could result in a sentence of up to 30 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $1 million.
If convicted of aggravated identity theft charges, each defendant would face a mandatory minimum prison sentence of two years for each count of conviction.