Two men in North Miami have been arrested in connection with a scheme to steal the identities of several people, including some Miami-Dade County public school students, according to federal court records.
The suspects also were accused of filing false income tax returns, using the names of other people — including those of some of the students — to defraud the Internal Revenue Service, according to court documents.
An IRS special agent said in a criminal complaint that investigators noticed unusual “filing” activity at a residence in North Miami where two men — Rigo Octavio López and Luis Daniel López — filed several tax returns between Jan. 31 and July 8, 2014, claiming $237,092 in refunds. The IRS actually paid $49,902 of those claims, the criminal complaint says. An IRS spokeswoman said the agency had no comment.
The case is another example of identity theft scams involving income tax returns, credit cards and U.S. passports. Federal agents frequently arrest suspects in South Florida for a variety of identity theft schemes. The March 24 arrest of four young men at a Publix in the Village of Tequesta in north Palm Beach County helped federal agents unravel a credit card and identity theft ring in South Florida.
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In the Miami case, IRS agents gathered key evidence while interviewing three taxpayers whose names appeared among the fraudulently filed returns, according to the criminal complaint.
“All three taxpayers [said] the income tax return filed in his/her name was false and that he/she did not give permission to anyone to file the income tax return,” according to the criminal complaint.
On Feb. 11, IRS and U.S. Secret Service agents raided the residence where Rigo Octavio López and Luis Daniel López allegedly prepared the false income tax returns.
When they searched the house, agents found dozens of items containing the names and identification information, such as dates of birth and Social Security numbers, of many individuals not linked to the suspects. Agents also recovered information on drivers as well as numerous prepaid debit cards in various individuals’ names, according to the complaint.
Additionally, the complaint said, agents found in a storage area outside the bedroom a black spiral notebook that contained information such as names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers for Miami-Dade Public School students.
“[The] black spiral notebook ... contained at least two dozen ‘Student Information’ printouts from the Miami-Dade Public School system,” the complaint said. “The printouts contained the names and PII [personal identification information] of current or former students of the Miami-Dade Public Schools.”
The criminal complaint said that some of the 494 false income tax returns were filed using the names of students listed in the printouts found in the black spiral notebook.
Both defendants were arraigned on April 22 and are tentatively scheduled to be tried in June.
The lawyer for Luis Daniel López could not be reached for comment. But Rigo Octavio López’s attorney, Ronald Manto, said: “Mr. López has entered a plea of not guilty and is evaluating the evidence with his legal counsel.”
Follow Alfonso Chardy on Twitter @AlfonsoChardy