… in $2.6 Million Identity Theft Fraud Conspiracy – DALLAS — A federal grand jury in Dallas has returned an indictment charging Tonderai Sakupwanya and Reminico Zhangazha each with one count of conspiring to commit mail fraud and wire fraud stemming from a federal income tax refund identity theft scheme they ran from May 2009 through May 2012. Sakupwanya is scheduled to make his initial appearance in federal court this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge David L. Horan. U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas made today’s announcement.
Sakupwanya, aka “Pound, Webster Rice, Floyd Roberts and Floyd Robbins,” is presently in federal custody, having pleaded guilty in October 2012 to an Information, filed in the Northern District of Texas, charging false use of a passport. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for that conviction; sentencing is set for March 18, 2013.
Zhangazha, aka “Boss Remy,” “Martin V. Masters and Roy Daniel Black,” is presently in federal custody in the Eastern District of Texas, where he has pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement in the use of a passport. According to the factual resume filed in that case, Zhangazha is a citizen of Zimbabwe, with permission to temporarily reside in the U.S.
The indictment, returned last week in Dallas, alleges that Sakupwanya and Zhangazha conspired together, and with others, to commit mail fraud and wire fraud to obtain approximately $2.6 million in federal income tax refunds by electronically filing multiple fraudulent income tax returns containing stolen personal identification information.
As part of the stolen identity refund fraud conspiracy, according to the indictment, the defendants obtained personal identifying information from other persons without their knowledge or authorization. They also obtained electronic filing identification numbers “EFIN” that were assigned by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to professional tax preparers. To further the conspiracy, according to the indictment, using fraudulent identification, the defendants rented private mail boxes to establish mailing addresses and established bank accounts at various financial institutions to receive the fraudulently obtained tax refunds.
The indictment alleges the defendants prepared fraudulent income tax returns by using the stolen identities and used false income and withholding information to produce a purported tax refund. They then electronically filed the fraudulent returns which resulted in approximately $2.6 million in fraudulently obtained funds to be deposited into bank accounts they controlled. According to the indictment, they withdrew the cash and used it for their personal use and enjoyment.
A federal indictment is an accusation by a grand jury and a defendant is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty. If convicted, each of the defendants faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. In addition, the indictment includes a forfeiture allegation which would require the defendants, upon conviction, to forfeit to the U.S. any proceeds traceable to the offense, including approximately $105,000 seized in May 2012 from Zhangazha’s vehicle, his apartment and a residence on Spring Mountain Drive in Plano, Texas.
In September 2012, the Department of Justice announced a new directive to further the efforts of the Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to respond quickly and effectively to fight stolen identity refund fraud.
The case is being investigated by IRS Criminal Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Stokes is in charge of the prosecution.