NEW YORK (AP) — A mail carrier was arrested Thursday on charges he stole over $1 million through a scheme that delivered bogus tax refunds.
Oscar Lopez, 36, of Brooklyn, was charged in Manhattan federal court with carrying out the crime from June 2010 to May 2012 while he was delivering mail in the Bronx.
In a criminal complaint, U.S. Postal Service Agent Kevin Adams said Lopez and others ripped off the U.S. Treasury by using Social Security numbers from unsuspecting U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico who were unlikely to file tax returns because they were not required to as long as their income was derived from Puerto Rican sources.
Authorities said Lopez arranged for the refund checks to be mailed to addresses along his delivery route, enabling him to pick up the checks and give them to his co-conspirators, who deposited them in accounts at several banks before giving a portion to Lopez.
Lopez, charged with conspiracy and theft of government funds, was awaiting a court appearance Thursday. His lawyer could not immediately be reached.
If convicted, Lopez could face up to 15 years in prison.
Adams wrote that the case was built with the help of a cooperator who has pleaded guilty and hopes to obtain leniency in return for his help.
“As a taxpayer and a United States Postal Service employee, I find the allegations against the defendant disturbing,” said Philip Bartlett, head of the New York office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. “I have little tolerance for those who would use their position of public trust to facilitate criminal activity.
Shantelle Kitchen, head of the New York office of the IRS’ criminal investigative division, said in a release that fraudulent tax refund schemes typically involve a “web of co-conspirators who obtain taxpayer information, file the tax returns and secure and negotiate the refund checks.”
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