The United States Department of Justice this week announced charges against eight individuals for their participation in a racketeering (RICO) conspiracy that involved hacking and tax fraud.
The defendants, Andi Jacques, Monika Shauntel Jenkins, Louis Noel Michel, Jeff Jordan Propht-Francisque, Dickenson Elan, Michael Jean Poix, Vladimyr Cherelus, and Louisaint Jolteus, allegedly worked together to perform computer intrusions and fraud.
An indictment unsealed this week alleges that, between 2015 and 2019, the defendants along with others, including a now-deceased conspirator referred to as Rich4Ever4430, banded together in a cybercrime and fraud scheme involving tax returns.
Jenkins, Michel, Propht-Francisque, Cherelus, and Rich4Ever4430, the indictment claims, purchased on the dark web server credentials for Certified Public Accounting (CPA) and tax preparation firms and used them to access those systems and exfiltrate the tax returns of thousands.
The stolen tax returns included taxpayers’ names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, and financial information, which they used to perform identity theft and file thousands of false tax returns. The activity allegedly impacted more than 9,000 victims.
According to the indictment, the conspirators created and operated fraudulent tax preparation businesses in south Florida and used them to file false tax returns. They also opened bank accounts in the name of these businesses, to receive fake ‘tax preparer fees’.
The defendants also registered with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) preparer tax identification numbers using victims’ personal information, to make their claims seem legitimate.
The tax refunds resulting from the fake filings were directed to debit cards and bank accounts controlled by the defendants.
According to the indictment, the defendants also ‘hijacked’ the IRS-issued identification numbers of CPA and tax preparation firms and used them to file additional false tax returns. Using stolen identities, they also filed false self-prepared tax returns.
The conspirators attempted to hide their nefarious activities by using pseudonyms, businesses and bank accounts opened in the names of victims, and by employing tens of different email addresses.
Overall, the defendants allegedly claimed over $36 million in false tax refunds. The actual loss surpasses $4 million but the exact amount has yet to be determined.
If found guilty, the defendants face up to 20 years in prison for the RICO conspiracy count. Fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft charges brought against Jacques, Poix, Jenkins, and Michel carry maximum penalties of 20 years in prison and a consecutive two years’ imprisonment, respectively.