Mark Saint Juste was arrested in Fort Lauderdale after he allegedly tried to eat fraudulent tax return checks to avoid arrest by U.S. customs agents at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Saint Juste, 45, was arrested on six counts of fraudulently attempting to use the identification of another person without their consent and four count of fraudulently attempting to use the identification of another without their consent for $5,000 or more.
Saint Juste, a Haiti national, is currently being held at the Broward Main Jail on immigration hold. According to press reports, Saint Juste lives in Tamarac, Florida, although it is not known whether he has a visa or green card. It is not clear whether Saint Juste will be granted bail bond, nor is it clear whether he has retained a private criminal defense attorney.
The arrest report indicates that the incident occurred on Saturday after Saint Juste arrived in Fort Lauderdale. He had traveled to Florida from his native Haiti. As Saint Juste was undergoing a normal customs exam, U.S. Customs officers noted that there was a large bulge in the right front pocket of his pants. When an officer asked him to empty the pocket, Saint Juste did, revealing an envelope; however, when Saint Juste was asked to hand over the envelope, he reportedly refused. Saint Juste then allegedly “inserted the contents of the envelope into his mouth,” according to the affidavit.
Although it is not entirely clear what happened next, U.S. customs agents were likely forced to remove the checks from Saint Juste’s mouth. The envelope was found to contain 10 fraudulent tax returns. Four of the checks were from the U.S. Treasury, while the other six from Advent Financial, a company that helps independent tax preparers get their tax returns faster than they would otherwise. The checks were reportedly worth almost $6,000. The affidavit states that the checks were “bearing the names of fraud victims. It was unclear whether the checks were counterfeit.”
Authorities believe that Saint Juste was collaborating with other parties in a tax return fraud scheme. The scheme, like others uncovered in the area, allegedly involved filing tax returns using stolen personal information, then collecting the tax returns themselves. It is not clear whose personal information was used in this particular scheme.
Saint Juste told authorities that he had been given the checks by a party in Haiti in order to deliver them to someone at Fort Lauderdale airport. He further reported that he had been promised 25% of the profits of the scheme for delivering the checks. He denied having been involved in stealing personal information or filing the tax returns. Authorities have not said whether they are searching for the other parties who were allegedly involved in executing the scheme.
The news came just a week after Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of South Florida announced that she is sponsoring a new piece of legislation dubbed the STOP-IT Act. The act is meant to provide more stringent punishments for filing fraudulent tax returns using stolen personal information. The legislation may be forthcoming now due to an unusually fraud-ridden tax season, which unearthed dozens of identity theft tax schemes in Florida.