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Thursday, Oct 30, 2014
Crime & Courts

Zephyrhills corrections officer charged with identity theft and tax fraud

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Published:   |   Updated: May 21, 2014 at 09:31 PM

— A state corrections officer lost his job Wednesday after he was charged with using inmates’ identities to file fraudulent tax returns.

Jerry St. Fleur, 26, of Zephyrhills, was arrested Tuesday on five counts each of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. According to an indictment handed up last week and unsealed Tuesday, St. Fleur worked at the Zephyrhills Correctional Institution, where he used his job to obtain names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers of current and former inmates without their knowledge.

St. Fleur used those identities to file federal tax returns claiming fraudulent refunds, according to the indictment. He is accused of directing that the bogus refunds be deposited onto prepaid debit cards that were sent to coconspirators.

The indictment lists five different tax returns claiming refunds from $996 to $7,324 for a total of $14,274, in January and February 2013

State Department of Corrections spokeswoman Jessica Cary said St. Fleur, who worked for the department since August 2007, was dismissed on Wednesday.

It’s unclear how St. Fleur is alleged to have gained access to the inmate information.

“Not all officers have access to the database that has the information,” Cary said, adding that all officers are certified to take care of information and are required to honor inmates’ privacy. “We have zero tolerance for illegal, inappropiate and unbecoming behavior. It’s unfortunate, and we definitely will take action in any case like that...The majority of our officers are very upstanding and very great citizens and they protect our communities every day.”

St. Fleur is the third government official whose job involved working with convicts to be prosecuted in federal court recently. The two others have been ordered to spend time behind bars.

The arrest comes a month after a former juvenile probation officer was sentenced to seven years and three months in prison for using juvenile probationers’ identities to file fraudulent tax returns. Corey A. Coley was also ordered to repay $671,000, the proceeds he and his conspirators are accused of obtaining.

And on Wednesday, authorities announced a former federal corrections officer was sentenced to two years in prison for accepting a $4,200 bribe to smuggle contraband, including a cell phone, into a federal prison in Sumter County. Michael J. Garland of Lecanto pleaded guilty in February to accepting the bribe.

esilvestrini@tampatrib.com

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Twitter: @ElaineTBO

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