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Sunday, Nov 23, 2014
Crime & Courts

Tampa man pleads guilty in South Dakota tax fraud


Published:

Christopher Lundy, a former Hillsborough High School athlete, pleaded guilty Monday to a federal charge stemming from a Tampa-connected tax-fraud scheme at the University of South Dakota.

Lundy, of Tampa, entered his guilty plea in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to aggravated identity theft. He faces a mandatory sentence of two years in prison.

Federal investigators said Lundy was among 11 people, including six other athletes at the university, who were part of a ring in 2011 and 2012 that used stolen identities to file bogus income tax returns showing about $1.1 million in refunds due.

On Monday, Lundy admitted he emailed names, Social Security numbers and birthdates of six people to other co-conspirators who used the information to file false tax returns. He was playing for the South Dakota football team at the time.

Investigators said the scheme’s ring leader, Alphonso “Rico” Valdez, a Chamberlain High graduate, also played for the football team. Valdez is awaiting trial.

Two other Tampa men involved in the scheme were sentenced last month. Raunta Ellison, 25, was ordered to serve more than five years in prison, while Dametrius Turner, 23, another former football player for the university, was sentenced to 3½ years.

Ellison, Turner and co-defendant Charlie Frank Adams, 23, of Tampa, who was sentenced in January, have been ordered to pay the IRS and identity theft victims nearly $422,000. Valdez’s former girlfriend, Melissa Dinataly, 23, of Tampa, was sentenced to two years in prison in June.

Investigators have said Valdez recruited students at the university, located in Sioux Falls, and people he knew in Tampa to gather names, addresses and other identifying information, and used that information to file fraudulent tax returns.

The suspects stole more than $500,000 from U.S. taxpayers in a conspiracy that spanned from June 2011 through May 2012, authorities said.

The scam was discovered when Valdez used preloaded debit cards to withdraw $900 in cash from an ATM in Vermillion, South Dakota, authorities said. Valdez tried to hide his identity by wearing sunglasses and a stocking cap, authorities said.

That led investigators to a dorm room, where authorities said they found evidence of fraud that started a more than six-month investigation.

Information from The Associated Press and KELO-TV was used in this report.

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