Lee Ervin Dale of Fort Lauderdale, Florida has been accused of using stolen identities to claim income tax return checks from the IRS, a press release from the United State Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida says. Dale, 30, is charged with three counts of income tax refund fraud and eight counts of presenting fraudulent income tax returns for refunds. He is also charged with three counts of aggravated identity theft. All of the counts are federal offenses, but so far there have been no arrests. It is not yet known whether Dale has retained a private criminal defense lawyer.
While details are sketchy, reports say that Dale allegedly used stolen identities of U.S. citizens to claim tax refunds from the IRS. The amount of money acquired in the purported fraud is thus far unknown. According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, if Dale is found guilty, he could face as much as 10 years behind bars for each count of theft from the government, an additional maximum of 5 years for every count of false tax claims, and as much as two years for the identity theft charges.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, the state of Florida placed first out of all US states in recent years in regards to the number of identity theft complaints, based on population. Georgia and California tailed behind closely, coming in second and third respectively. The FTC said the majority of identity thefts were reported in the fields of tax refunds and bank and credit fraud, though Florida also gets significant press for voter fraud.
In other news pertaining to fraud, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation announced that business license holders should be on the lookout for a fraudulent email that threatens them with fake punitive penalties, news sources indicate. The Florida-based regulatory office says that the phony email was devised by fraudsters and bares very close resemblance to an actual email used by the department. The email seeks to obtain license holders’ personal information.
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation says it first got wind of the scam one week ago, when license holders reported receiving an email that warned them that they may be penalized by the regulatory office. The department is in charge of monitoring a variety of Florida businesses and often sends emails regarding pending punitive actions. When doing so, the department sends a physical companion letter by mail; however, the office says that the fraudsters masquerading as officials did not take this step.
The emails purportedly warn business license holders that they are being faced with disciplinary action, and ask that the recipients call a division agent at a phone number. The agent, when called, purportedly solicits personal information from the victims, including social security numbers and other sensitive identity information. In the right hands, the information could be used to steal the victim’s identities, reports say.
According to a spokesperson from the Florida regulatory office, the fraudulent email is almost unmistakable from a genuine email, saying, “[the impostors] copied the banner on our website and created an e-mail signature that looks very much like ours.” She added, “It’s important for people to know that this contact is not coming from us.” The Florida office is asking anyone who receives the fake email to contact them and report it immediately.