Florida Letter Carrier Admits Role in Scheme To Steal Tax Refund Checks from Mail

Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney Robert E. O’Neill announces that Victor Manual Pena (42, Bronx, New York) today pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit theft or receipt of stolen mail. Pena faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.

In addition, Carmelo Rosado, Jr. (40, Orlando) has signed a plea agreement, whereby he has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit theft or receipt of stolen mail and bribery of a public official. Rosado faces a maximum penalty of twenty years in federal prison.

According to the plea agreements and other pleadings, Rosado and Pena participated in a conspiracy to file fraudulent federal Income Tax Returns. Through the fraudulent tax returns, the conspirators requested the tax refunds in the form of U.S. Treasury checks, be mailed to addresses throughout the United States, including the Middle District of Florida. The conspiracy also involved stealing and taking possession of the U.S. Treasury tax refund checks so that they could be negotiated for the benefit of the conspirators and others.

Through identity theft, fraudulent federal income tax returns, in the names of individuals who are residents of Puerto Rico, were filed with the Internal Revenue Service. (The names and Social Security Numbers of residents of Puerto Rico were illegally used because Puerto Rico residents are not required to file federal income tax returns with the IRS. A resident of Puerto Rico is not required to file a federal income tax return so long as all of the Puerto Rico resident’s income was derived from Puerto Rican sources.) All of the fraudulent returns requested income tax refunds. Among the fraudulent returns were approximately sixty-eight returns that requested a total of $509,017 in tax refunds. These returns were filed electronically and accepted by the IRS. The income tax refunds were scheduled to be paid and delivered, via the U.S. mail, to various apartments in the Chapel Trace Apartment Complex, located at 412 and 424 Chapel Trace Drive, Orlando, Florida.

An Orlando-based conspirator identified and recruited Rosado, who was then employed as a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier, to intercept, to steal and take possession of the U.S. Treasury checks for the tax refunds mailed to the Chapel Trace Apartment Complex. Rosado was to deliver the intercepted checks to the conspirator in exchange for payment for his participation in the scheme. On March 7, 2011, Rosado stole sixty-eight U.S. Treasury checks representing income tax refunds from the U.S. mail.

On April 4, 2011, Pena and his co-conspirators drove from New York to the Chapel Trace Apartment Complex in Orlando, and, at the direction of their recruiter, made efforts to obtain the stolen U.S. Treasury checks from the Orlando-based conspirator. On April 5, 2011, Pena took possession of the stolen U.S. Treasury checks from the Orlando-based conspirator, concealed them on his person, and gave them to the conspirator who had recruited him into the scheme. On the same date, the Orlando-based conspirator was given $9,000 in cash as compensation for the participation of the Orlando-based conspirator and Rosado.

Special Agent in Charge Linda J. Osuna of the IRS Tampa Field Office – Criminal Investigation Division stated, “At the IRS, protecting taxpayer money is a matter we take extremely serious. An integral part of the agency’s mission involves detecting and catching fraudulent refund claims. We welcome the ability to work with our sister law enforcement agencies towards this goal and are proud of the accomplishments we have been able to make in combating this type of criminal conduct.”

This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Rachelle DesVaux Bedke and Josie Thomas.

These prosecutions arise out of a coordinated effort among various United States Attorney’s Offices to combat the scheme to use stolen Puerto Rican identities to file fraudulent federal tax refund claims. These offices included the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Middle District of Pennsylvania, Southern District of New York, District of Connecticut, and the District of Massachusetts and investigative agencies working with each United States Attorney’s Office. Investigation and enforcement actions in each of these Districts resulted in arrests as part of the multi-district effort.

source: US Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Florida