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Crime & Courts

Feds: Tampa man recruited family, friends for $1.6 million in tax fraud

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Published:   |   Updated: September 6, 2013 at 07:33 PM

TAMPA — Family, friends and women in the neighborhood were part of a ring led by a Tampa man that stole more than $1.6 million from federal taxpayers using stolen identities and fraudulent tax returns, authorities say.

Cordell Veonzal Jones, 51, is charged with conspiring to defraud the United States and commit aggravated identity theft, along with his best friend, Craig Calhoun, and numerous other unnamed people, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court by IRS Criminal Investigation.

After Jones admitted to investigators in December that he was the ringleader of a fraudulent tax refund scheme, he continued to file fraudulent tax returns, authorities say.

The scheme included Jones’ wife, daughter, son, sister-in-law, cousins, ex-girlfriend, and another friend, according to the affidavit. Jones and his co-conspirators opened about 150 bank accounts with at least 20 different financial institutions to obtain the fraudulent refunds for the 2010 and 2011 tax years. More than 500 fraudulent tax returns seeking more than $5 million in refunds were filed by the ring.

Jones even told investigators he opened bank accounts in his father’s name without his father’s knowledge or consent, the affidavit states.

The ex-wife of Jones’ brother-in-law obtained names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers from her place of employment where the identity theft victims applied for loans, according to the affidavit.

She told investigators Jones wanted information on people who collected Social Security because they didn’t file tax returns and so it was easier to file fraudulent returns in their names. Jones told investigators he paid her 50 percent of proceeds from the returns filed with information she provided.

The woman estimated she provided Jones with more than 400 names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth and received about $140,000 for the information, according to the affidavit.

Jones also told investigators he recruited girls off the streets, paying them about $200 a day to prepare fraudulent tax returns, initially from hotels in the Tampa area and later from Jones’ house on May Circle.

He also said he paid people for different formulas used to determine the dollar amounts used on the fraudulent returns, according to the complaint.

A U.S. magistrate on Thursday ordered Jones detained without bond.

esilvestrini@tampatrib.com

813-259-7837

Twitter: @ElaineTBO

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