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Identity theft scam netted Nigerians $11 million, and the prison

SALEM, Ore. – A Nigerian man has been sentenced to seven years in federal prison for his role in the bilking of more than $11 million through a identity-theft-scheme of the Internal Revenue Service, the u.s. Attorney’s office for Oregon said Tuesday.

An IRS agent has said: this is one of the biggest tax fraud cases in the United States, in which stolen personal identification information was used to commit fraud with the IRS, the First Assistant of the Prosecutor of the V. S. for Oregon, Scott Erik Asphaug told The Associated Press in an e-mail. The scope is enormous.

An IRS criminal investigation determined the co-conspirators obtained personal identifying information of more than 259,000 people, and used it to acquire over 19,500 electronic submission of the Pins of the IRS, the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement. The co-conspirators obtained and used prepaid debit cards with the stolen identities to receive direct electronic tax refund deposits. They eventually submitted more than 10,000 fraudulent federal income tax returns, attempting to obtain more than $91 million in refunds, with the actual losses in the amount of more than $11 million.

Refunds were withdrawn from the debit cards and at least 2,000 transfers in total more than $2.1 million were sent to Nigeria.

For his role, Michael Oluwasegun Kazeem, 24, who came to the United States on a student visa, was convicted in federal court of the southern Oregon town of Medford on Nov. 8 for conspiracy to commit mail fraud, aggravated identity theft and e-fraud, the U. S. Attorney’s office said Tuesday. U. S. District Judge Ann Aiken also ordered Kazeem to pay $4.3 million in restitution.

The government got wind of the case when a Medford victim told the IRS in May 2013, that false federal and Oregon state tax returns were electronically filed using her and her husband names. The result included personally identifiable information, including their social security numbers and dates of birth. The federal refund was deposited into an account via a prepaid debit card in a suburb of Chicago, while the state reimbursement was referred to a bank account in Texas.

In 2014, the co-conspirators also had access to the IRS “Transcript” system, where they obtained sensitive taxpayer information, and uses the file with additional fraudulent gives. In 2015, as a result of these and other security breaches, the IRS discontinued the “Transcript” program nationwide, the statement of the U. S. Attorney’s office said.

Last August, Kazeem, the brother of Emmanuel Kazeem, was sentenced in Medford’s mail and wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Data that at his trial showed Emmanuel Kazeem purchased through 91,000 taxpayer identities of a Vietnamese hacker.

The Mail Tribune newspaper in Medford, reported that the tax return submitted using 13,203 accounts stolen from the cics Employment Services, a company that performs pre-employment background checks and is located in Lincoln City, Oregon Coast. The owner of the cics said he lost $420,000 worth of business, and handled hundreds of phone calls from worried victims, often with limited resources, the newspaper.

Asphaug said no taxpayer was monetarily as a result of the crimes, but that she caused a multitude of problems for the taxpayer.

Michael Kazeem is a member of the conspiracy in 2013 to help his brother, who lived in Bowie, Maryland and Nigeria.

Emmanuel Kazeem sentencing is scheduled for March 22, 2018.

Michael Kazeem apologized to the court.

“I am deeply and emotionally sorry for the trouble I caused,” the Mail Tribune quoted him as saying. “What I did was wrong.”

He is to be deported after completing his sentence.

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