PITTSBURGH (AP) — A federal prosecutor in Pennsylvania said Wednesday that a massive identity theft and fake tax return scheme cost the U.S. Treasury an estimated $10 million.
U.S. Attorney David Hickton announced the indictments of five men at a news conference in Pittsburgh. According to the indictment, the men allegedly sought $21 million in fraudulent tax refunds, and the IRS paid out about half of that between 2005 and early 2014.
“We have dismantled a massive stolen identity ring that involved thousands of victims and tens of millions of dollars in losses,” Hickton said.
The defendants also allegedly obtained false driver’s licenses and Social Security cards, which were then used to open bank accounts in Washington, D.C., Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other states. Then the five defendants allegedly submitted 2,400 fraudulent federal tax returns using the names from the stolen ID’s.
The 13-count indictment named Doherty Kushimo, 52, of Providence, R.I.; Saburi Adeyemi, 56, of Memphis, Tenn.; Abiodun Bakre, 49, of Ozone Park, N.Y.; Adetunji Gbadegeshi, 57, of Queens, N.Y.; and Adebola Mejule, 54, of Hempstead, N.Y.
The defendants allegedly spent some of the illegally obtained funds and sent some money to Nigeria. They have all been arrested, and four have been arraigned on charges including conspiracy to commit fraud and aggravated identity theft, while Mejule is in custody of U.S. Marshals.
Messages left for lawyers of two of the men weren’t immediately returned, but Adeyemi’s attorney said he’s puzzled because prosecutors haven’t shown him any of the evidence against his client. Attorney Roger Cox of Butler said Adeyemi works in a warehouse and only had $7 in a bank account.
Leonard Ambrose, Gbadegeshi’s attorney, said he intends to vigorously defend his client.
Adeyemi and Kushimo have been released on bond, while Gbadegeshi and Mejule have been detained, officials said.
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