A Camden County man today admitted his role in a scheme to obtain money through fraudulently obtained refund checks issued by the U.S. Treasury, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced.
According to Acting U.S. Attorney Honig, Jorge Gutierrez, 42, of Merchantville, pleaded guilty to an indictment charging him with conspiracy to defraud the United States.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF) is a common type of fraud committed against the United States government that involves the use of stolen identities to commit tax refund fraud. SIRF schemes generally share a number of hallmarks.
Perpetrators obtain personal identifying information, including Social Security numbers and dates of birth, from unwitting individuals who often reside in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
They then complete Form 1040 tax returns using the fraudulently obtained information and falsifying wages earned, taxes withheld, and other data, always ensuring that the fraudulent tax return generates a refund.
They direct the U.S. Treasury Department to mail refund checks to locations that the perpetrators' control or can access.
With the fraudulently obtained refund checks in hand, SIRF perpetrators generate cash proceeds by depositing the checks into bank accounts that they control or cashing the checks at check-cashing businesses.
For the 2013 tax year, in excess of 3,300 SIRF tax returns were filed using the names and Social Security numbers of residents of Puerto Rico and for which the refunds were directed to be mailed to a small section of Pennsauken.
Of the 3,300 returns filed, several of the refund checks were issued and ultimately cashed at check-cashing agencies in New Jersey, Philadelphia, and New York using false and fraudulent identifications, including fake New Jersey driver's licenses, fake Social Security Cards, and fake Department of Homeland Security Permanent Resident Identification cards.
On March 28, 2018, Gutierrez, Alberto Sanchez, Awilda Henriquez and Roque Bisono were indicted by a federal grand jury. According to the indictment, Gutierrez, Henriquez, Bisono, Sanchez, and their conspirators obtained stolen identities of residents of Puerto Rico to file fraudulent income tax returns seeking federal tax refunds to which the conspirators were not entitled.
The objective in doing so was to falsely and fraudulently generate income tax refund checks issued by the U.S. Treasury.
The conspirators recruited mail carriers from the U.S. Postal Service as part of the scheme to steal the tax refund checks from the mail. The mail carriers were paid for every U.S Treasury check that was stolen.
The conspirators paid "check couriers" to cash the tax refund checks in a variety of ways, including at check-cashing businesses in and around Camden.
The check couriers presented false and fraudulent identifications at the check-cashing businesses matching the names on the tax refund checks in order to cash the checks. In total, the scheme caused $565,091 in losses to the U.S. Treasury.
Gutierrez admitted that between April 2014 and August 2014, he was a member of the conspiracy that took 93 U.S. Treasury Refund checks that had been placed in the mail stream to be delivered to addresses on a postal mail route in Pennsauken.
He admitted that he helped a man nicknamed "Chepe" steal money from the United States government.
The conspiracy count to which Gutierrez pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for March 1.
Henriquez is pending trial, which is scheduled to start November 29, before Judge Kugler in Camden.
On December 10, 2019, Judge Kugler sentenced Sanchez to 45 months in prison. Bisono is awaiting sentencing.