MEDFORD, Ore. (KOIN) – Six people face federal charges for allegedly stealing the identities of 250,000 people to get bogus tax returns through direct deposit. Thousands of Oregonians are affected.
Michael Oluwasegun Kazeem, 32, was arrested in Atlanta and is expected to appear in federal court Wednesday. Five other people — Emmanuel Oluwatosin Kazeem, Oluwatobi Rueben Dehinbo, Lateef Aina Animawun, Oluwaseunara Temitope Osanyinbi and Oluwamuyiwa Abolad Olawoye — were indicted by a federal grand jury in May 2015.
Here’s how prosecutors say the scheme worked:
— The scheme started in the 2012 tax year and continued through May 2015.
— The information of the 250,000 people was stolen from a database owned by a pre-employment and volunteer background check company. (The company’s name was not released in court filings.)
— The data included names, addresses, Social Security numbers, birth dates, driver license information, bank account information, email account informaiton and passwords.
— Michael Kazeem and the other conspirators used “email and instant messenger accounts” to exchange hundreds of communications containing stolen Social Security numbers and other personal data
— Michael Kazeem and others used the stolen IDs to file fraudulent federal tax returns.
— The group used the stolen IDs for “unauthorized access into” the IRS system to obtain more than 1200 taxpayer transcripts from the IRS
— Michael Kazeem and the other co-conspirators filed over 2900 false federal tax returns seeking over $25 million in fraudulent refunds. The actual loss to the government is more than $4.7 million, according to court documents.
Michael Kazeem is charged with federal conspiracy to commit mail fraud, felony mail fraud, and aggravated ID theft. The indictment was filed on Feb. 4, but was just unsealed on Wednesday.
According to the indictment, Michael Kazeem had lived in Nigeria and in Georgia.
In May 2015, a federal grand jury handed up an indictment that charges Emmanuel Oluwatosin Kazeem, Dehinbo, Animawun, Osanyinbi and Olawoye with aggravated ID theft, wire and mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
Emmanuel Oluwatosin Kazeem, Dehinbo, Animawun, Olawoye, Osanyinbi each remain in custody in the Jackson County (Oregon) Jail.
Speaking by phone on Wednesday, criminal defense attorney Michael Levine, who represents Emmanuel Oluwatosin Kazeem, said the case is in the “discovery process.”
He couldn’t comment on the new allegations against Kazeem’s brother and couldn’t comment on the current case Emmanuel Kazeem faces as he has yet to complete a full review of the “thousands of documents” that are associated with the case.
“The Federal Trade Commission reported recently that Oregon jumped to third in the nation for reported incidences of identity theft. We know that tax refund fraud cases are a major contributor of the increase of reported identity theft,” IRS Special Agent in Charge Teri Alexander said. “The arrest of Michael Kazeem is a firm indication of the determined efforts of IRS CI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to reverse that trend here in Oregon and to provide some relief to the victims of this incredibly invasive crime.”
The case is being investigated by the IRS Criminal Investigation division, along with other federal agencies including Department of Health and Human Services, the FBI, Department of Treasury, HSI, and local law enforcement in Atlanta.