Feds: Miami-Dade drug felon cashes $12 million in fraudulent tax-refund checks, as part of ID-theft scam

 

jweaver@MiamiHerald.com

A convicted Miami-Dade drug trafficker unemployed for the past decade discovered how to make a quick buck, cashing $12 million in fraudulent tax-refund checks over five months last year, authorities say.

Frankie Jermaine Anderson skimmed 20 percent of the take for himself, gave 30 percent to a Perrine check-cashing store owner identified only as “J.C.” and delivered the other half of the proceeds to suppliers of the refund checks, according to a criminal complaint.

Anderson is accused of cashing thousands of tax-refund checks at J.C.’s business, J&S Taxes, between February and June 2012. The store previously had handled only $5,000 to $15,000 a month in check transactions, according to the complaint.

Anderson, 40, was arrested Tuesday on charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, theft of federal money and aggravated identity theft. He will have a detention hearing in Miami federal court Monday and an arraignment March 6.

“Everyone is innocent until proven guilty,” Anderson’s attorney, Joshua Sheskin, told The Miami Herald Thursday. “This is what we have trials for.”

Anderson’s alleged scheme, while hardly unusual in one of the nation’s ID-theft, tax-refund fraud capitals, is nonetheless striking for the total value of Treasury Department checks cashed over such a short span.

IRS agents initially took down Anderson in a sting operation in late November, when he was caught with 35 Treasury refund checks totaling $119,165 that he was allegedly trying to cash through an undercover agent in Miami and a confidential source who had approached him earlier that month.

Prosecutor Michael Berger said the fraudulently obtained refund checks in Anderson’s possession included one for a dead person, identified as “T.C.”

After his Nov. 28 arrest, Anderson confessed to the Perrine check-cashing store scam to IRS agents, according to the criminal complaint. The complaint said the store owner “J.C. admitted that these checks were obtained by fraud,” but he has not been charged.

Anderson also agreed to provide the names and contacts of the people who provided him with the thousands of fraudulent refund checks. In a written confession, he admitted that he obtained “Treasury refund checks from various people on the streets.”

But when Anderson failed to supply the information to authorities, he was arrested again this week.

“As far as I know, my client has no intention of cooperating, nor has he cooperated,” said his lawyer, Sheskin.

The alleged check-cashing racket made Anderson nouveau riche in a matter of months.

The U.S. attorney’s office has moved to seize two recently purchased homes in Southwest Miami-Dade that are valued at $250,000 each. One home was bought for Anderson and his wife, Debra, and the other for Anderson’s mother, according to the criminal complaint. (J.C. also purchased a home for himself, and one for his mother in the same area.)

Also, the U.S. attorney’s office has filed papers to seize Anderson’s fleet of 2012-13 luxury cars: a BMW 530i, BMW X6, Porsche Cayenne, Porsche Panamera, Cadillac CTS, Jaguar XF, Jaguar XJ, and Bentley GT Coupe.

Prosecutors, citing state records, said Anderson has been unemployed since 2003.

Federal court records show Anderson was convicted in 1995 of conspiracy to possess with intent to manufacture and distribute cocaine. He was sentenced to five years in prison.

In a growing crime wave, perpetrators in South Florida, Tampa and other regions of the country are stealing the identities of various people — including prisoners, the dead, the poor and even children — who don’t file income tax returns in order to avoid having the IRS detect duplicate filings, authorities say. They also swipe people’s IDs to file phony tax returns.

Combined, the schemes have robbed the U.S. government of billions of dollars yearly since the crime began spreading in 2008, according to a Treasury Department report.

South Florida victims of these and similar crimes run the gamut: police officers, Holocaust survivors, U.S. Marines stationed in Afghanistan, hospital patients and senior citizens.

Authorities say identity theft is fueling the fraud: Florida has the highest rate in the country, with 178 complaints per 100,000 residents last year, followed by Georgia, with 120 complaints per 100,000 residents, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

But Florida’s rate is dwarfed by that in the Miami area, with 324 complaints per 100,000 residents.

In the past year, the U.S. attorney’s office says it has charged 125 defendants accused of about $138 million in tax-refund fraud.

Read more Miami-Dade stories from the Miami Herald

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