Springfield woman to pay $1.4M for tax refund check fraud

Evelyn Manzueta orchestrated the cashing of 236 fraudulent tax refund checks

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Evelyn Manzueta of Springfield was ordered to pay $1.377-million in restitution and serve one year in federal prison for orchestrating the cashing of fraudulent tax refund checks.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 52-year-old Manzueta cashed nearly $500,000 through her own accounts and enlisted friends and family members, including her brother in-law 54-year-old Robert Evans of Wallkill, New York.

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Mastroianni sentenced Evans to three months of home confinement Thursday in Springfield Federal Court. Evans was also ordered to pay $517,714 in restitution.

Manzueta was sentenced in the same federal court room one week earlier on October 6th. Both had pleaded guilty to theft of government money and property in earlier court appearances this year.

In a News Release, U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz said Manzueta orchestrated the cashing of 236 fraudulent tax refund checks from January of 2012 to May of 2013. In total, $1,377,376 in fraudulent tax returns were cashed through the scheme.

According to the Justice Department:

The U.S. Department of Treasury issued the checks based on tax returns, submitted by unknown individuals, which were later determined to be fraudulent. Although the tax returns used the names and Social Security numbers of real people living in Puerto Rico, their addresses were falsely listed as Massachusetts and New York.  The tax returns also contained false employment information. Both Evans and Manzueta, knowing the tax return checks were fraudulent, cashed them through their bank accounts.

The IRS and Treasury department said this prosecution was part of a larger coordinated law enforcement operation:

This case is part of an ongoing effort to prosecute perpetrators of Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF) schemes.  In these schemes, individuals use stolen identities to steal money from the U.S. Treasury by filing fake tax returns that claim tax refunds. SIRF crimes are often perpetrated by large criminal enterprises with individuals at all stages of the scheme: those who steal the Social Security Numbers and other personal identifying information, those who file false returns with the IRS, and those who facilitate obtaining the refunds. These criminal enterprises exploit the speed and relative anonymity of highly automated systems that store personal information, preparing and filing tax returns electronically, and generating income tax refunds quickly.  The IRS estimated that, in 2013, the government lost $5.8 billion to SIRF schemes.