BERGEN COUNTY, NJ — A former Demarest resident was sentenced to 17 months in federal prison for his role in a $65 million stolen identity and income tax refund scheme, authorities announced.
Roberto Diaz, 48, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi to aggravated identity theft, theft of government funds and conspiracy to commit theft of government funds, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.
Ceechi sentenced Diaz to prison in Newark court Tuesday.
Diaz deposited more than $4.7 million in tax refund checks obtained through the scheme, Fitzpatrick said in a news release.
Members of the conspiracy obtained Puerto Rican citizens’ Social Security numbers and dates of birth and completed income tax returns using them to make it appear the people would receive refunds, Fitzpatrick said. They also told the U.S. Treasury Department to send the refund checks to locations they could control or access, the U.S. attorney said.
Diaz admitted at his plea hearing that he received refund checks and deposited them into bank accounts he controlled or that were in the names of associates, Fitzpatrick said.
Diaz also admitted to bribing a mail carrier to intercept refund checks before they were delivered to identity theft victims, Fitzpatrick said.
By tracing the IP addresses from where the tax returns were submitted, law enforcement officials were able to intercept $22 million in fraudulently claimed refunds before they were delivered to the conspirators, Fitzpatrick said.
The scheme involved more than 8,000 fraudulent income tax returns and lead to $12 million in losses to the United States.
In addition to the jail term, Diaz was sentenced to three years of supervised release and must pay back the $4.7 million in restitution.