Before she became a cop, she stole thousands from the IRS, feds say

Miami Herald file
Miami Herald file

A police officer’s past — before she joined the Miami-Dade force — may have caught up with her this week.

When Ebony Nesbitt was attending Miami-Dade College in 2013, federal prosecutors say she joined a ring of students who stole other people’s identities to file phony income tax returns seeking nearly $2 million in refunds. Some of the students, such as Nesbitt, received thousands of dollars in their college bank accounts.

Nesbitt was not among the 18 MDC students arrested in 2014 as the U.S. attorney’s office froze more than 1,000 student bank accounts used to deposit fraudulently obtained tax refunds. The ring filed returns in the names of about 650 taxpayers whose Social Security numbers were stolen. As a result, the IRS issued almost $500,000 in refunds.

But the 28-year-old North Miami woman, now a Miami-Dade police officer, was arrested Thursday on charges of a conspiracy against the U.S. government and theft of federal funds — four years after the initial roundup in the college scandal.

Her defense attorney, Frank Prieto, said Nesbitt, the mother of two children, served in the Navy before joining the Miami-Dade Police Department.

“If there was any wrongdoing in this case, we’ll get to the bottom of it,” Prieto said Friday. “At this point, Ms. Nesbitt has been nothing but a model citizen in her community.”

Nesbitt, who joined the police force in 2014, was relieved of duty without pay pending the outcome of her criminal case. Nesbitt, who was released on a $50,000 bond, will be arraigned on her indictment Sept. 12.

The case by the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office was made as the statute of limitations was going to expire. Nesbitt’s former boyfriend, Andrew Morales, was also charged with two counts of theft of government funds — but in a separate indictment.

According to an indictment, Nesbitt and her co-conspirators obtained the names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers of other people for filing bogus tax returns — then arranged to have the electronic refunds deposited into the Higher One bank accounts of Miami Dade College students. Those accounts are meant for receiving financial aid and paying tuition.

Nesbitt and her co-conspirators “designated” her Higher One account for the direct deposit of federal tax refunds, the indictment said. On Oct. 2, 2013, Nesbitt’s account received a wire transfer totaling $7,573 from the Treasury Department in the name of another person.

That same day, an unnamed co-conspirator withdrew about $502 from Nesbitt’s Higher One account, using a debit card issued to her, the indictment said. On Oct. 10, Nesbitt received a check totaling $7,068.50 from Higher One when the banking-service company closed her Miami Dade College account.

The previous month, Nesbitt’s former boyfriend, Morales, received two electronic tax refunds from the Treasury Department — one for $7,568 and the other for $9,353 in the names of other people, according to his indictment.