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Identity theft alleged in St. Louis tax fraud case

There is a common pattern in many embezzlement cases. Often they involve the treasurer of an organization who runs into money problems and diverts money from the organization to cover the personal shortfall.

That is not, however, the only fact pattern that can lead to embezzlement charges in St. Louis or elsewhere. In a recent case involving a former St. Louis woman, federal authorities allege the use of a tax fraud scheme to embezzle public funds.

Federal agents arrested the 27-year-old woman last week. Prosecutors claim that she used identity theft - specifically, stealing the identities of the recently deceased - in a conspiracy to try to fraudulently obtain federal tax refunds.

The federal investigation found that 191 fraudulent tax returns had been filed from the woman's computer, using stolen identities. Prosecutors allege that the woman recruited a network of people to participate in the conspiracy, seeking to falsely obtain a total of nearly $1.5 million in tax refunds.

According to the criminal complaint, a total of 27 refund checks were mailed out, to three different states. Fourteen of these went to Missouri.

The complaint was filed by an Internal Revenue Service special agent. Most of the refunds apparently involved taxpayers who had recently died.

The IRS has targeted the reduction of tax refund fraud as a priority. The agency is working on improving its computer filtering programs to better flag tax returns where identity theft may be at issue.

Embezzlement, identity theft and tax fraud are all typically considered forms of white-collar crime.

Source: "Former St. Louisan accused of running $1.5 million tax scam," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Robert Patrick, 11-27-12

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