A Port St. Lucie, Florida, man was convicted by a federal jury yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida of ten counts of aiding and assisting in the filing of false income tax returns and three counts of filing false income tax returns.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, from 2012 through 2015, the Defendant, Richard Maurival, prepared income tax returns for clients that claimed false education credits and false business expenses, and other deductions to inflate by thousands of dollars refunds paid by the Internal Revenue Service. In addition to filing fraudulent income tax returns for his clients, the evidence showed that Maurival falsified his own income tax returns, by not fully reporting the fees he earned in his tax preparation business for tax years 2012, 2013, and 2014.
This case dates back to April 2014 when the FBI announced the filing of federal charges against 25 defendants in 19 separate cases in the Southern District of Florida dealing with thousands of stolen identities and millions of dollars of fraudulent identity theft tax filings.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, Florida had the highest rate of identity theft in the United States in 2013. While identity theft in Florida ranks highest in the United States, the identity theft rate in Miami has reached near epidemic proportions. Florida's rate of 192.9 complaints per 100,000 residents—the highest in the United States—is dwarfed by the Miami rate of 340.4 complaints per 100,000 residents.
In an attempt to combat the rising wave of stolen identity tax refund scams, and armed with recent directives from the Department of Justice's Tax Division, making prosecutions faster and easier, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida established the South Florida Identity Theft Tax Fraud Strike Force (strike force) in August 2012.
The members of the strike force and participating agencies include the United States Attorney's Office; Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Miami Field Office; Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office; U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Miami Division; Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG); Aventura Police Department, North Miami Beach Police Department; Miami-Dade Police Department; Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Miami Field Office; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), Miami Field Division; Town of Davie Police Department; Florida Highway Patrol; Lee County Sheriff's Office; Broward Sheriff's Office (BSO); Ft. Lauderdale Police Department; Coconut Creek Police Department; Sunrise Police Department; Coral Springs Police Department; Miramar Police Department; and North Miami Police Department.
From 2012 to 2014 the strike force charged 296 defendants responsible for approximately $485.5 million in intended stolen identity refund fraud loss and in excess of $106 million in actual SIRF fraud loss.
The U.S. Attorney's Office and the IRS also revoked so-called “electronic filing identity numbers” or EFIN numbers, which allow individuals to file tax returns on behalf of others. Before revoking these EFIN numbers, fraudsters had used them to file 166,495 fraudulent tax refund claims between 2012 and 2014.
In Maurival's case, U.S. District Judge James Ivan Cohn for the Southern District of Florida set sentencing for January 17, 2019. The Defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of 3 years in prison on each count, as well as a period of supervised release, restitution, and monetary penalties.