FL probation officer charged in tax fraud scheme - WFLA News Channel 8

FL probation officer charged in tax fraud scheme

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TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

A probation officer with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice was arrested Thursday, accused of stealing identities used in a tax refund fraud scheme.

Corey Coley, 36, is accused of accessing a FDJJ database of probationers and obtaining personal information including names, dates of birth and social security numbers, according to an affidavit from an IRS agent filed with a criminal complaint.

It's unclear how many people may have been affected, but investigators said they found 90 identities of those currently and formerly under FDJJ supervision in a ledger connected with the alleged scheme.

"It's infuriating, it's devastating to me and the people who work in this department because there are so many incredible people working here that are working so hard to turn these children's lives around," said FDJJ Secretary Wansley Walters.

Coley is facing a federal charge of engaging in a conspiracy to defraud the government. An alleged co-conspirator, Albert E. Moore, Jr. is facing the same charge. According to the affidavit, Moore works for Wal-Mart.

According to the affidavit, the two men worked with a woman, Mattie Philon, who used identities they gave her to file fake tax returns. Philon is not charged in the complaint.

Philon told authorities that she tried to use the juvenile identities Coley provided to file tax returns but that they were rejected. She did succeed in using the identities to open debit cards, loading tax returns from other individuals onto them, according to the affidavit.

From January 26, 2012 to September 10, 2012, more than 200 tax returns claiming more than $1.4 million in refunds were filed from an IP address associated with Philon, according to the affidavit.

Coley, a senior juvenile probation officer had worked at FDJJ since 2001. His access to the computer database was disabled in September, when authorities at FDJJ learned of the investigation. FDJJ said Thursday that they were in the process of terminating Coley's employment.

Coley is not the first government employee to be caught up in the tax refund fraud scheme involving stolen identities and fake tax returns. For example, an Ocala police officer was sentenced for his role accessing driver's license database information in a scheme last year.

"We have seen perpetrators of tax fraud from nearly every walk of life, including those in positions of public trust," said Jim Robnett, special agent in charge of the IRS criminal investigation division in Tampa.

U.S. Attorney Robert O'Neill said there may be more cases involving people in positions of trust and government jobs in the future.  

 "It's always sad to see, but it's always the same thing – when there's easy money to be had, people take chances," O'Neill said.

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