MIAMI — Twenty-five people accused of using thousands of stolen identities to claim $36 million in fraudulent tax refunds have been arrested in the latest South Florida sweep, federal authorities said today.
Among those charged in 19 separate cases is a middle school food service worker who swiped the identities of at least 400 Miami-Dade County students, a mail carrier charged with filching tax documents out of mailboxes and a jail guard who stole identities of inmates, according to Miami U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer.
Florida has led the nation in identity theft for the past three years, with a rate of about 193 complaints per 100,000 residents in 2013, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The Miami area is far worse, with a 2013 rate of 340 complaints per 100,000 residents.
Ferrer said the latest batch of arrests brings to nearly 300 people charged with identity theft and tax fraud since a special strike force was established in August 2012. Those cases involved more than $485 million in fraudulent tax refund claims to the Internal Revenue Service, of which about $106 million was actually paid out.
“This has become an epidemic in South Florida,” Ferrer said at a news conference. “It is also becoming a consumer’s worst nightmare.”