On Tuesday, May 24th, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) J. Russell George announced that five people were arrested as part of a continuing investigation into Internal Revenue Service (IRS) phone call scams.
According to George, the following people were arrested in Miami, Florida, by TIGTA agents on Monday, May 23rd: Roberto Fontanella Caballero, Dennis Delgado Caballero, Yaritza Espinosa Diaz, Jennifer Valerino Nunez, and Arnoldo Perez Mirabal. Their arrests went smoothly. Criminal complaints were filed against each suspect. On May 10th, 2016, criminal complaints were filed against Jennifer Nunez and Dennis Caballero in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. On May 16th, 2016, criminal complaints against Arnoldo Mirabal were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. On May 18th, 2016, criminal complaints were filed against Yaritza Diaz and Roberto Caballero in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.
Each suspect allegedly played a part in schemes in which IRS agents were impersonated and taxpayers were threatened with arrest if they did not pay back taxes they were made to believe they owed. Court documents state that the suspects allegedly got nearly $2 million from over 1,500 victims.
George issued the following statement regarding the arrest of the five suspects, “These arrests indicate that TIGTA is making significant progress in our investigation of the IRS impersonation scam that continues to sweep the country, resulting in reported taxpayer losses of more than $36 million, averaging more than $5,700 in losses per taxpayer… The scammers are relentless and so are we… Our investigators will not rest until we have brought each individual involved to justice.”
Court documents state that the five suspects “knowingly conspired with others to commit wire fraud by falsely impersonating IRS agents and demanding money under such false pretenses.” People who said they were from the IRS called the victims and threatened to arrest them if they did not pay right away. In addition, the callers intimidated the victims in order to get them to wire money via MoneyGram, Walmart-2-Walmart, and more.
George reminded taxpayers that IRS and United States Treasury officials will never demand payments through wire services. George said, “No legitimate United States Treasury or IRS official will demand that anyone make payments via MoneyGram, Western Union, Walmart–2–Walmart, or any other money wiring method, for any debt to the IRS or the Department of the Treasury.” He went on to say, “Nor will the Department of the Treasury demand that anyone pay a debt or secure one by using iTunes cards or other prepaid debit cards… Hang up on these fraudulent callers and go to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) scam reporting page to report the call.”
The suspects’ identities were verified through investigations by TIGTA Special Agents. The Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging led by Chairman Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Ranking Member Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) helped with one of the investigations. Further legal action and prosecution of the suspects will be done by the Office of the U.S. Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice.
The arrests of the five suspects come after a man who was considered to be the “ringleader” of a similar IRS phone scam was sentenced to 175 months in Manhattan Federal Prison on July 8th, 2015. Sahil Patel ran several “call centers” which were located in India. Through the call centers, Patel and others involved in the scam impersonated law enforcement officials in the U.S. and threatened to arrest victims in order to get money out of them. In addition to a prison sentence, Patel had to forfeit $1 million. Patel, along with his co-conspirators, got $1.2 million or more from their victims.
The IRS phone scam has hit our area as recently as April.