Even though the 2012 tax season is just getting underway, thousands of people have already been the victims of identity theft. Their personal information used by thieves to file fake tax returns and collect millions of dollars in undeserved refunds from the Internal Revenue Service.
“Nine people have been charged or arrested in just the last three weeks,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Grimberg in Atlanta.
Friday, Kevin Joseph Sonnier, 44, of Ellenwood and Bernardo Davis, 26, of Morrow, were arrested on charges of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy to defraud the government. Prosecutors accuse Sonnier and Davis of filing more than 15,000 false tax returns from 2011 to 2012 that claimed over $15 million in bogus refunds.
Sonnier and Davis used the names and social security numbers of thousands of unsuspecting victims to claim fraudulent refunds from the government, according to Grimberg. They obtained some of these names and social security numbers through a website that touted the availability of an “Obama stimulus payment” and provided a toll-free number. There was no stimulus payment. Sonnier and Davis instead used the victims' personal information to file the bogus tax returns and rake in the undeserved refunds.
Catching thieves like these is next to impossible, Grimberg said, because the only names authorities have to go on are those of the victims.
“So it takes a whole lot of investigative work to trace back and figure out who is responsible,” he explained.
Grimberg says that makes it all the more likely that as tax season continues, the number of victims and the number of phony returns will only continue to rise.