ATLANTA – Since it’s tax time, the number of people reporting their identities stolen has risen considerably. Victims typically find out when they attempt to file their taxes, only to find someone has already done it and collected the refund.
One such scammer, one of the largest caught in Georgia, was recently sentenced to 21 years in prison for scamming more than 15,000 people using stolen identities.
From 2010 to January 2013, Bernando O. Davis, 28, of Stockbridge, operated “Davis Tax Service,” a tax preparation business in Clayton County. Davis, working with two others around the country, led thousands of victims to believe that they could apply for “government stimulus payments” or “free government money” from the federal government by providing their names and Social Security numbers. Davis and his conspirators used toll-free telephone numbers, websites, flyers and radio advertisements to advertise the “stimulus payments” and collected victims’ personal information when they applied for the payments. They also recruited “runners” who promoted the scheme by word of mouth and collected victims’ personal information.
No such stimulus program existed. Davis and his co-conspirators instead used the victims’ personal information to file fraudulent tax returns that claimed a total of more than $19 million in bogus refunds. On the returns, Davis claimed false income amounts and student credits to generate the bogus tax refunds. In many of the returns, Davis directed the IRS to pay the refund amounts to bank accounts controlled by him or his co-conspirators. The victims did not know that Davis had filed tax returns in their names. The scheme affected more than 15,000 victims in virtually every state across the country.