Seven suspects and two New Jersey check cashing companies are facing 90-count indictment charges for their alleged involvement in a national tax fraud scheme, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown announced in a press release on March 7.
The nine defendants, who operated in Queens, were accused of enterprise corruption, third-degree grand larceny and fifth-degree conspiracy for allegedly stealing over $500,000 in tax refund checks between August 2011 and November 2012 using forged personal identification documents.
Most of the refund checks were cashed at postal facilities at Kennedy Airport, giving the DA’s Office jurisdiction over the case, officials confirmed.
The defendants were arraigned before Acting Queens Supreme Court Justice James Griffin on March 6 and are scheduled to return to court on April 9. If convicted, the seven suspects would each face a minimum of five years in prison while the two check cashing companies would each receive a fine of up to $10,000.
“This case, unfortunately, is just a snapshot of what is alleged to be a widespread tax fraud scheme that has moved from its epicenter in the New York-New Jersey area to other parts of the country and is responsible for draining tens of millions of dollars from the federal fisc,” Brown said in his statement.
According to Brown, the defendants used the Social Security account numbers of residents of Puerto Rico, who are not required to file federal income taxes, to receive refund checks.
The investigation, which involved court-authorized electronic eavesdropping, was conducted by the Port Authority Police Department and the DA’s Organized Crimes and Rackets Bureau.
One of the defendants, Jose Mercedes, is the suspected leader of the criminal enterprise, according to Brown. Both Mercedes’ son and nephew were also allegedly involved.