Bennett also tried to obtain a $200,000 loan in April from the FBI’s fake check-cashing store, using a UBS financial statement falsely showing that he had $9 million in collateral, according to court records. It was Bennett’s former Raiders’ teammate, Joseph, who introduced him to the undercover store.
Joseph was tripped up by another defendant, Lanny Fried, 34, of Miami Lakes, who got caught trying to cash checks at the store and then began cooperating with agents to target the former NFL player. In July, Fried also pleaded guilty to theft of government money and aggravated ID theft.
In his plea agreement, Fried admitted he knew that several checks he brought to the store had been fraudulently obtained.
Here’s the root of the problem: Scammers filing fabricated tax returns have exploited a hole in the IRS electronic filing system, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
The federal watchdog agency found that the Internal Revenue Service does not match tax returns to the W-2 income forms that employers file until months after the filing season ends on April 15. Employers file them in late February or early March; the IRS does not match them up with employees’ incomes reported on 1040 forms until June.
That’s way too late to catch identity thieves who file false returns in other people’s names early in the year and have already received and cashed the refund check.
The GAO says the number of ID theft-related fraud incidents on tax returns hit 248,000 in 2010, about five times more than in 2008.
According to the Treasury Department, that figure has since soared. In May, a Treasury inspector general testified the IRS reported that about 940,000 tax returns with refunds totaling $6.5 billion involved identity theft.
Those 2011 returns accounted for 42 percent of about 2.2 million “fraudulent” tax returns that year, according to the IRS.