FLINT, MI — A Flint-area IRS employee faces criminal charges after federal prosecutors claim he was involved in a Nigerian-based identity theft scheme that attempted to steal thousands of dollars from taxpayers and other victims.Federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint Sept. 10 in Flint U.S. District Court against the man following an investigation by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
The suspect’s name is not being released because he has not yet been indicted or arraigned on any charges.
“The IRS holds its employees to high standards and does not tolerate inappropriate behavior in the workplace or with taxpayers,” said IRS spokesman Luis Garcia. “When questions arise, the IRS works closely with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and other law-enforcement authorities as appropriate.”
Attorney Michael Manley, who represents the suspect, declined to comment on the case, adding that he has not received investigative materials from federal authorities.
Authorities began their investigation into the suspect earlier this year after an allegedly fraudulent tax return was filed online in March with the IRS, according to an affidavit included in the complaint. The return, filed in March for a taxpayer identified only as “RB” in the complaint, called for a $282,548 refund, which was deposited into a bank account allegedly controlled by the suspect.
However, RB, when interviewed by investigators, denied ever filing a tax return naming the suspect as a beneficiary of the refund, according to the affidavit.
Authorities continued investigating and discovered that information relating to RB’s 2012 and 2013 tax information was accessed electronically via the IRS’ “Get Transcript” system, according to the affidavit. RB’s 2014 tax information was accessed electronically just two days prior to the return filing, according to investigators.
Information obtained in the IRS’s E-Authentication Database indicated that the first attempt to access RB’s account information was made from an IP address located in Lagos, Nigeria, the affidavit alleges.
Investigators discovered a second attempted wire transfer to the suspect’s bank account in May that they believed to be fraudulent, according to the affidavit.
On May 28, investigators claim an email was sent to Branch Banking and Trust purportedly from one of its customers attempting to transfer $48,090 to the suspect’s bank account.
The email included an invoice in the suspect’s name for the purchase of a painting, according to the affidavit. The address on the invoice came back to a business in Saginaw.
The following day, a second email purportedly from the bank’s customer included a signed letter authorizing the transfer.
Rather than completing the wire transfer, the bank recommended that the funds be sent via a certified check, which was shipped to an apartment allegedly leased by the suspect in South Carolina.
The suspect, who already moved from South Carolina to a home in Flint Township, allegedly used his official IRS email address to message the apartment complex to notify its assistant manager that the check would be picked up and forwarded to his new Genesee County address, the complaint alleges.
On June 1, the victim accessed his bank account and discovered the $48,090 transaction, according to the complaint. The victim contacted his bank and a stop payment alert was placed on the check. The victim allegedly told the bank that the transfer was not authorized and they had never seen the invoice.
The suspect, on June 2, allegedly went to a Burton bank and attempted to cash the check, but the bank delayed cashing the check.
Bank investigators contacted the suspect June 16 to discuss the check, according to the affidavit.
The suspect allegedly told bank investigators that he received the check following an online chat with a person named “Deborah Woods” and the check was sent to the suspect to distribute as a loan to Woods’ friend.
Federal investigators executed a search warrant July 17 for the suspect’s personal email account and discovered multiple conversations from 2011 to 2015 between the suspect and the person who identified themselves as Woods, the complaint alleges.
The suspect allegedly provided Woods with his bank account information, while Woods directed the suspect where funds should be wired.
A third-party investigation into Woods, commissioned in 2014 by the suspect, showed that Woods was not who she appeared to be and that her email address was linked to previous scam operations based in Nigeria, according to the affidavit.
Federal investigators claim that online scammers often require conspirators to establish financial accounts and transfer funds on their behalf. Conspirators are typically allowed to keep a percentage of the fraudulently obtained funds for their role in the scheme.
Investigators allege the emails show that the suspect had allegedly kept portions of previous financial transactions involving Woods. The complaint does not state how much the suspect made as part of the scheme.
The suspect was released on $50,000 unsecured bond. A preliminary exam is scheduled for Oct. 1.