Three men were arrested this morning on federal charges for using stolen identities to file fraudulent tax returns that each sought thousands of dollars in tax refunds.
The arrests were pursuant to a 17-count indictment that charges five defendants with conspiring to defraud the United States by filing false federal income tax returns. The fraudulent tax returns claimed the First Time Homebuyer Credit and/or the Earned Income Credit, even though the individuals on whose behalf the returns were filed did not authorize or know about the filing of such returns.
The three defendants arrested Thursday are: Thomas Marshall, also known as “T-Mac,” 36, of Lancaster; Michael Williams, 41, formerly of Littlerock; and Mike Niko, 33, of Carson.
The other two defendants named in the indictment are: Veronica Niko, 35, of Lancaster, who is scheduled to make her court initial appearance on February 8; and Mao Niko, 39, formerly of Gardena, who is currently being sought by authorities.
The indictment alleges a scheme in which Veronica Niko allegedly stole names and social security numbers from the California Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) computer system. Marshall then gave the personal identifying information obtained from Veronica and others to co-conspirators to file fraudulent tax returns with the IRS, according to the indictment. The fraudulent returns claimed the First Time Homebuyer Credit and/or Earned Income Credit, earning defendants as much as $8,000 per return, even though the individuals whose identities were used did not authorize or know about the filings.
Purporting to be tax preparers, Williams, Mao and Mike Niko established bank accounts to receive the fraudulently obtained refunds, which were used for their own personal benefit and as compensation for Marshall and other co-conspirators, according to the indictment.
All five defendants are charged in the conspiracy count. Marshall is additionally charged with seven counts of filing false claims with the IRS. Veronica Niko, a former employee of the California Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) is additionally charged with three counts of unauthorized access to a DPSS computer and three counts of unlawful disclosure of a social security number. Veronica Niko and Marshall also are charged with three counts of transfer/use of means of identification to commit an unlawful activity.
If convicted of the various charges, the defendants would face sentences ranging from 10 years to 90 years in federal prison.
This investigation was conducted by special agents with the IRS – Criminal Investigation.
(Information via press release from the Internal Revenue Service.)