DAILYKENN.com -- The IRS issues Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) for employed aliens who are don't have Social Security numbers.
Two dreamers dreamed up a scheme to fraudulently collect illegal U. S. Treasury refund checks using ITINs.
The 2,760 checks they received from the IRS totaled $12.1 million.
Arrested are a married couple, Perfecto Ruano and Walda Luna.
The Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division’s Raleigh office filed a criminal complaint on Jan. 8 in federal court against a Wallace couple, Walda Lorena Luna and her husband Perfecto Ruano, claiming the couple used identity fraud to obtain 2,760 illegal U. S. Treasury refund checks with a total value of $12.1 million.
The activity took place between January 2009 and May 2012. Luna and Ruano were arrested Jan. 11 and taken to the New Hanover County jail in Wilmington.
The IRS calls this type of crime Stolen Identity Refund Fraud, or SIRF. More recently it has labeled the crime Identity Theft tax refund fraud, or IDT refund fraud. The IRS has been aware of this type of fraud at least since 2011 and recently stepped up efforts to catch it.
“The critical thing for taxpayers to know is that new protections will be in place by the time they have to file their taxes in 2016,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in June. Carolina Journal began reporting on the issue in April 2013.
Luna and Ruano made their first court appearance Jan. 19 at the federal courthouse in Wilmington. Each had a court appointed attorney and a Spanish translator served both defendants. The attorneys filed motions to withdraw from the case because they said Luna and Ruano were in the process of hiring their own attorneys. U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Jones Jr. approved the motions and will continue with the case when the new attorneys are secured.
It was not IRS computers that detected the couple’s alleged activities. Instead, the agency first learned of the alleged tax fraud because of a traffic stop in Arkansas two years earlier, according to the complaint. In May 2014, Arkansas State Police stopped the couple and found them carrying $1.8 million in cash. The police notified the Duplin County Sheriff’s Department and within days law enforcement officials seized tax fraud evidence from the couple’s North Carolina home and business.
According to the complaint, Luna and Ruano obtained Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers for at least 300 names that may represent real or fictitious people. The IRS issues ITINs instead of Social Security Numbers to foreign individuals working in the United States, giving them a means of filing income tax returns and paying taxes on income earned.
Luna and Ruano allegedly fabricated W-2 wage and tax statements for each name using the names of real employers, then prepared tax returns and submitted refund claims to the IRS. The refund checks were sent to post office boxes rented by Luna or Ruano. The average refund check was $4,385. The checks all were deposited in a First Bank business account that Luna had opened in 2006. Luna withdrew $11,888,300 in cash by writing 252 checks for cash.
Luna is a native of Honduras who obtained temporary protective status in November 2006. She entered the United States illegally in 1993. Since February 2010, she operated a small convenience store named Beverly Tienda, located on North Norwood Street in Wallace. For the 2009 through 2012 calendar years, Luna reported annual incomes from the store of $16,000, $18,000, $17,481 and $24,915, respectively. She reported no other income.
Ruano is a native of Guatemala, who obtained legal permanent resident status in 1988. For 2009 through 2012 he reported business income from several sources for a total of $18,560, $26,204, $27,002 and $59,123, respectively. He reported no other income.
Duplin County birth records show they are the parents of three children. On Jan. 18, CJ visited the family home at 413 North Duplin Street. There were three vehicles in the yard and driveway. There was also a large Nativity scene in the front yard.
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