Majority Press

Lead from Senator Susan Collins’ Committee Results in Arrest of Five Suspected IRS Impersonation Scammers

Together these five suspects have allegedly scammed almost $2 million from more than 1,500 victims


This is the largest single action taken in the history of the IRS impersonation scam

           

              Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, announced today that as a result of a lead reported to the Committee’s Fraud Hotline, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has arrested five individuals connected with the IRS impersonation scam. Two individuals were identified as a direct result of the crucial information provided by a fraud investigator with the Aging Committee’s Hotline.  

            “Putting a stop to aggressive and ruthless scams such as the IRS impersonation scam is among my highest priorities as Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee,” said Senator Susan Collins.  “Thanks to the quick actions of the investigators who staff our Fraud Hotline, the Inspector General has made significant arrests in the fight against a pernicious scam.  These actions should also put criminals on notice that we will relentlessly pursue those who seek to rob seniors of their hard-earned savings.”

            The arrests stem from a call to the Aging Committee’s Fraud Hotline in October 2015.  The caller reported that her husband had recently been contacted by an individual claiming to be from the IRS and demanding immediate payment of alleged back taxes.  The victim was instructed by the scammer to drive to his local Walmart to wire nearly $2,000 via MoneyGram.  On his way to the retailer, the distraught victim crashed his car.  The victim was so convinced that the scammer was an authentic IRS agent, however, that he left the scene of the accident to wire the payment in order to avoid the scammer’s threats of possible legal action.

            The Fraud Hotline investigator who received the victim’s report was able to trace the wire transfer to Minnesota and reported this information to TIGTA.  TIGTA sent agents to Minnesota, pulled surveillance tapes, and quickly identified two suspects.  TIGTA’s investigation led them to identify the three additional suspects.  All five suspects were arrested in Miami, Florida, on May 23, 2016, and subsequently charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. 

             According to the court documents, the suspects are responsible for almost $2 million in schemes that defrauded more than 1,500 victims.  This is the largest single action TIGTA has taken in the history of the IRS impersonation scam.

              Last April, Senator Collins chaired a hearing that examined IRS impersonation scams and efforts by law enforcement to put a stop to them and find and prosecute those involved. 

              In 2015, the Aging Committee’s Fraud Hotline (1-855-303-9470) received more than 1,100 calls from seniors across the country.  The most common complaint reported to the Fraud Hotline was the IRS impersonation scam.  This data was used to publish a comprehensive anti-fraud resource guide titled, Fighting Fraud: U.S. Senate Aging Committee Identifies Top 10 Scams Targeting Our Nation’s Seniors.

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WASHINGTON — J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), announced the arrests of five individuals based upon criminal complaints alleging that they were involved in schemes to impersonate Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents and use the threat of arrest to obtain money from victims by falsely representing that the victims owed back taxes or other fees.

TIGTA agents arrested the five suspects in Miami, FL, without incident on May 23, 2016, for wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.  According to the court documents, the suspects are responsible for almost $2 million in schemes that defrauded more than 1,500 victims.

“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 Inspector General said.  “The scammers are relentless and so are we,” he added.  “Our investigators will not rest until we have brought each individual involved to justice.”

The five individuals are: Jennifer Valerino Nunez, Dennis Delgado Caballero, Arnoldo Perez Mirabal, Yaritza Espinosa Diaz, and Roberto Fontanella Caballero.  The criminal complaints were filed with the following courts:  the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota on May 18, 2016 (Yaritza Diaz and Roberto Caballero); the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas on May 16, 2016 (Arnoldo Mirabal); and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas on May 10, 2016 (Jennifer Nunez and Dennis Caballero).

According to the court documents, the suspects knowingly conspired with others to commit wire fraud by falsely impersonating IRS agents and demanding money under such false pretenses.  Victims received telephone calls from people claiming to be from the IRS, who told them the IRS would arrest them if they did not make payment immediately.  The callers made these threats and used other methods of intimidation to persuade the victims to wire money, utilizing MoneyGram, Walmart--2--Walmart, and other wire services.

“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,’ George said.  “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,” he said, adding,   “Hang up on these fraudulent callers and go to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) scam reporting page to report the call,” he added.

Investigators verified the identity of the suspects and their activities through a variety of investigative procedures.  TIGTA Special Agents conducted the investigations that led to the arrests of the suspects.  TIGTA received assistance in one of the investigations from 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).

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