Tampa Law Enforcement off to a fast start fighting tax fraud - WFLA News Channel 8

Tampa Law Enforcement off to a fast start fighting tax fraud

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Two weeks after the start of the new tax filing season, local law enforcement say they're busy with new investigations and the old pattern of tax refund fraud.

"We're seeing the same things we've been seeing over the past couple years, the folks who have ledgers, cards the names, social security numbers, date of births," said Sgt. Pat Kennedy, who heads up a fraud unit at the Tampa Police Dept.

Kennedy says it appears fraudsters are again able to get refund money from fake tax returns loaded onto debit cards.

There have been some surprises in the season so far – including an investigation sparked in Riverview on Monday after a first grader showed up at school with a plastic bag containing 52 debit cards in other people's names. School officials contacted the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, which conducted a search warrant at the girl's home about five hours later, removing computers and high-end items suspected of being purchased with stolen money.

The quick response is indicative of how investigators will operate this year, said Corp. Bruce Crumpler, who leads the tax fraud investigations at the sheriff's office.

"No longer are those days (of) four and five and six days or a week or two months down the road and we're going to knock on your door," Crumpler said. "This was five hours later and we were in someone's house saying, ‘That stuff, what you have is unlawful items' and we'll take it."

No one has been charged in connection with the Riverview search but authorities are continuing their investigation.

Just weeks into the new season, the tax refund fraud crime is again frustrating victims whose identities were used to file fake tax returns.

St. Petersburg resident Carlida Wright said she and her husband filed early this year to avoid the identity theft problem, but were informed by their tax preparer that their filing didn't go through.

 "Someone beat us," Wright said. "The same day we file, someone went earlier that day to file the same day."

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