A convicted Miami-Dade check-cashing store owner who processed $12 million in fraudulent tax-refund checks was sentenced to nearly five years in prison by a federal judge.
Jesus Calvo, 30, of Cutler Bay, cashed the checks over five months last year at his Perrine business, receiving 30 percent of the take as his fee, authorities say. He invested the stolen millions in two houses, luxury cars, a retirement account and other business activities.
U.S. District Judge Jose Martinez ordered Calvo, who pleaded guilty to the fraud conspiracy in March, to repay $9.2 million to the U.S. government. He was sentenced on Thursday.
The checks were brought to him by Frankie Jermaine Anderson, a convicted drug trafficker who skimmed 20 percent of the take for himself and delivered the other half of the proceeds to suppliers of the refund checks, authorities say. Anderson, 40, pleaded guilty in April and will be sentenced Monday.
According to court records, Anderson cashed thousands of tax-refund checks at Calvo’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.
The pair’s scheme, while hardly unusual in one of the nation’s ID-theft, tax-fraud capitals, is nonetheless striking for the total value of Treasury Department checks cashed over such a short span.
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 — to file bogus tax returns.
Internal Revenue Service 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 arrest last November, Anderson confessed to the Perrine check-cashing store scam to IRS agents, according to a criminal complaint. The complaint said the store owner, Calvo, “admitted that these checks were obtained by fraud,” but he was not immediately charged.
Anderson 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.”
The alleged check-cashing racket made Anderson nouveau riche in a matter of months.
The U.S. attorney’s office seized two 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.
Also, the U.S. attorney’s office 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 had 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.