Our tax attorneys in San Jose recently learned that identity theft and tax fraud allegations involving homeless people have become one of the latest scams perpetrated by criminal elements in San Jose.
A significant number of individuals who are eligible for tax refunds do not make an effort to file a tax return. The inaction is due to a variety of reasons, including living in shelters or just outside the mainstream society.
For this reason, scammers target homeless people and prepare tax returns based on identity fraud. As a result, tax refunds are funneled to illegitimate recipients. The perpetrators may act as a syndicate or individually. However, law enforcement officials told reporters that it is possible that some individuals charged with the offense may be unaware of the actions of their co-conspirators.
In such cases, some individuals sent to collect personal identifiable information (PID) from the homeless people may be unaware that the personal details would be used for criminal purposes.
San Jose woman pleads guilty
A 74-year-old San Jose woman known as Diep Vo recently appeared in court after being implicated in a homeless tax fraud scheme. According to the Attorney’s Office, she pleaded guilty to the charges brought against her. Federal prosecutors told journalists that the defendant was accused of stealing social security numbers from several homeless people (aggravated identity theft). She proceeded to file fraudulent tax returns.
Federal prosecutors say the elderly woman visited a couple of halfway houses and homeless shelters in a bid to acquire the identity details of people living in the centers. She allegedly promised the individuals money from a government program. The homeless people were asked to sign blank income tax return forms, which Vo later handed over to John Nguyen. The forms were later filled and submitted to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
The woman allegedly conspired with John and Trong Minh Nguyen to commit the crimes between May 2012 and December 2013. The trio identified people who had filed a tax return or worked in previous years in addition to visiting homeless shelters.
The co-conspirators filled the forms with bogus information with the aim to avoid arousing suspicion since they were submitting several tax returns. Using a single mailing address would have compromised their plan. According to official court documents, the trio rented a number of private mailboxes at various locations. Some of the mailboxes were rented in areas close to Senter Road in San Jose.
Approximately 1,740 fraudulent tax returns were filed by Diep Vo (also known as Nancy Vo). The fraudulent refunds totaled over $3.5 million. In May, the elderly woman was indicted by federal grand jury on three counts of aiding and abetting in filing fraudulent claims and one count of conspiracy to file fraudulent tax returns. In addition, she was indicted on two counts of aggravated identity theft. Sentencing in the matter is scheduled for November.
Vo could face a maximum sentence of five years for each count, a minimum sentence of two years for identity theft and up to 20 years in prison for each count of mail fraud.
San Jose man sentenced to 25 months in prison
According to the Department of Justice, a 57-year-old San Jose man will be spending up to 25 months in prison after being convicted for involvement in a homeless tax return scheme. The perpetrator allegedly used the identities of unsuspecting homeless persons to file a number of false tax returns with the intentions to receive refunds.
John and Trong Minh Nguyen were also found guilty and sentenced in a San Jose District Court. John and Minh had been working closely with Diep Vo who will be sentenced in November.
Our San Jose tax attorneys will closely follow these identity theft and tax fraud cases and keep you updated on our findings.