The massive case includes tax and bank fraud through illicit schemes, including theft of thousands of identities to get tax refunds.
Four federal grand jury indictments were presented in the middle of last week. They accuse the total of 55 people. There are Russian, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan nationals besides the citizens of Kazakhstan among the accused. 22 suspects were arrested last week in Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and the state of Maryland. 33 suspects are on the run, including 21 who fled the country. During searches in 12 locations police seized $13 thousand in cash and four guns (three of them unregistered).
“This case is staggering in terms of the number of victims, its level of sophistication, its audacious methods, and the callous disregard for victims,” U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy is quoted by the FBI official website as saying.
According to the website, the largest indictment charges 29 people. It is related to a sophisticated fraud that involves theft of over two thousand identities and using them to request tax refunds from the U.S. tax department (IRS) worth over $17 million. The fraudsters filed two types of return papers: ones claiming refunds from fabricated gambling winnings and losses and others based on made-up salaries and withholdings. The tax authorities accepted only part of these applications and in the end transferred over $7 million to the criminals. Sometimes the payment were even issued in the names of dead people.
Most of the accused are young people from the post-soviet space who were visiting San Diego under J-1 and F-1 visas. According ot the investigators the criminal identity theft ring was led by Armenian nationals or Armenian-American. They used the young people coming to the U.S. on student visas because they did not stayed in the country long. The young people opened bank accounts and debit cards, rented the postal boxes, where IRS sent the tax refunds to. The students then passed the money to the criminals net of the agreed commissions. Some of the accused have since returned to their home countries.
All of the Kazakhstan nationals involved in this massive case are among the 29 people accused by this largest indictment. Only one Kazakhstan national is among those arrested last week. The Kazakhstan nationals charged with the fraud are:
Stanislav Melnikov, 26
Renat Talanov, 25
Madlen Ospanova, 26
Meruyert Akhmetova, 37
Indira Akhmetova, 21
Vyacheslav Lazarev, 21 (arrested)
Yevgeniy Ivanov, 22
Zhassulan Shilikbay, 22
Ilyas Abdrakhay, 27
Yermek Dossymbekov, 23
Vyacheslav Tsoy, 25
Nurbek Akhmadiyev, 25
Alisher Omarov, 25
Ulan Zakirov, 22
Taiyr Zhuryn, 22
Yevgeniy Sotnikov, 29
The second case indicts three people accused of submitting over 400 false tax declarations on behalf of the people whose personal information they got hold of. They were planning to receive around $3 million of allegedly overpaid taxes.
The third case indicts a criminal group of 8 people. The fraudsters obtained names and the personal information of rich clients of Wells Fargo bank. The criminals sent imposters to branches to withdraw large sums of money. The imposters altered their appearances with haircuts, clothes and role-playing. The imposters told the bankers to transfer large sums of money to an account of a gold dealer and later took the golden coins from the dealer. In this scheme the criminals were eying to get in possession of $3 million, but have obtained a little over $550 thousand so far.
The fourth case indicts 18 people accused of issuing checks without coverage and an attempt to embezzle over $600 thousand from the Bank of America.
According to the prosecutors, besides nicknames, the criminals’ conspiracy included hiding IPs of the computers they used to submit fake tax declarations and using pre-paid phones that they changed on a regular basis.
“Individuals who commit refund fraud and identity theft of this magnitude and with this degree of dishonesty and deceit deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” the FBI official website quotes Richard Weber, Chief, IRS-Criminal Investigation.