A New Brunswick man has pleaded guilty in connection with a tax fraud scheme that caused the U.S. more than $12 million in losses, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman announced on Monday.
According to a press release from Fishman's office, Manuel Rodriguez, 50, of New Brunswick and Bennie Haynes, 53, of Dayton, a former U.S. Postal Service mail carrier, pleaded guilty for their roles in one of the nation’s largest
and longest running stolen identity refund fraud schemes.
Rodriguez pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S., theft of government property and aggravated identity theft.
Haynes pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S., theft of government property, and theft of mail by a postal employee, the release said.
According to the release, Rodriguez and others involved in the scheme allegedly obtained personal information from Puerto Rican citizens, such as birth dates and social security numbers. The information was used to create fake 1040 forms that falsely reported wages and withheld taxes for the purpose of claiming a tax return.
Rodriguez and others obtained the refund checks by bribing mail carriers, including Haynes, the release said.
Conspirators also purchased “mail routes,” by claiming addresses on the refunds that were along the routes of single mail carriers, and by listing addresses that were controlled by people involved in the scheme, including addresses in Nutley, Newark, Somerset and Shirley, N.Y., the release said.
Refund checks were also sold by conspirators to Rodriguez and others involved in the scheme, and were then deposited into accounts opened by third parties, and the money withdrawn, the release said.
The investigation by authorities intercepted more than $22 million in fake refund checks that were applied for by the people involved the scheme, the release said.
More than 8,000 false returns were filed, seeking more than $65 million in refunds, the release said.
The conspiracy counts are punishable by a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. Theft of government property charges are punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines, the release said.
The theft of mail by a postal employee charge carries a maximum of five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine, the release said.
The aggravated identity theft count is punishable by a statutory mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison, which must run consecutively to any other sentence, the release said.
Sentencing for both defendants is scheduled for June 5, 2013.