The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance announced today that a defendant described as the ring leader of a group who willingly filed fraudulent tax returns, some with stolen identities, has been sentenced to a prison term of 1½ to 3 years.
Christopher Curry, 40, of Westbury, NY, was arrested earlier this year as part of "Operation Refund Racket." The sweep was carried out by the Tax Department's Criminal Investigations Division and the Office of the Nassau County District Attorney, Kathleen Rice.
Curry was sentenced in Nassau County Court after he pled guilty to Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony. In admitting his liability, he agreed to pay the State $11,708 and $52,774 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.
Curry approached a number of people and offered a deal: give me your social security number to file a fake tax return, and if I get paid a refund, I'll give you a percentage. In this manner, Curry recruited several willing accomplices. Nine other "refund racket" defendants who collaborated with Curry are in various stages of prosecution.
Curry and his cohorts filed more than 30 fraudulent income tax returns. The returns contained false employer information, inflated or incorrect wages, and in some cases, stolen identities. In many cases, the taxpayer listed on the return never worked for the employer listed, and the entire W-2 form submitted with the return was fabricated.
The fraud resulted in the illegal payment of more than $60,000 in State and federal tax refunds delivered directly to either Curry or one of the other defendants. Making the cash difficult to trace, the refunds were loaded into prepaid debit cards, which functioned as de facto bank accounts, and then used to purchase money orders.
"I commend District Attorney Rice for her continuing effort to bring those involved in this ring to justice," Commissioner Thomas H. Mattox said. "The arrests happened at the right time. The record shows these defendants had planned to press ahead with their crimes, filing additional false returns using the stolen identities of nursing home residents and prisoners."
The Tax Department and the District Attorney's Office were called on to investigate when a federal Postal Service inspector became suspicious, noticing that a high volume of money orders were being repeatedly purchased with pre-paid debit cards at the Hempstead (NY) Post Office by the same people.
In New York State, 96% of taxes are paid by businesses and individuals who voluntarily meet their tax responsibilities. The remaining 4% is collected through the Tax Department's audit, collections and criminal investigations programs. Through its enforcement programs, the Department ensures fair tax administration for all New Yorkers.