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Courts / Law

An Update on Tampa's Tax Fraud Scams

It’s tax day – time to file your federal income taxes if you haven’t already.

It’s also a reminder of the tax fraud scam that the Tampa Police Department uncovered in the fall of 2010.

Criminals were using stolen names, birth dates and Social Security numbers to file fake tax returns and get IRS refunds. Tampa Police uncovered laptops and debit cards pointing to the tax scam during a routine drug bust.

But it took almost a year of investigation by TPD detectives with the help of the Secret Service and the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office before arrests could be made and another year before the criminal case made it to federal court.

“A little bit of a frustration would be an understatement to say the least,” said Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor on slowness of the case. “I would say in my 29 years of law enforcement, I’ve never seen a crime as egregious as this and it just seemed nobody wanted to do anything about it.”

One reason for the delay is that confidentiality laws prohibit the IRS from sharing information with other agencies.

Castor said some changes have been made since that first arrest improving their ability to investigate and go after tax fraud criminals. The Justice Department has sped up its review of tax fraud cases and the IRS has deputized some local police giving them additional power and access to information.

But, more changes need to be made at the federal level to prevent the fraud.

“The whole system is predicated on honest citizens and unfortunately lends itself to exploitation and so fixing it is going to mean delays in returns until they’re a victim,” Castor said. “I always say everyone is all for security until their inconvenienced. “

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