Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that EDWIN MEJIA was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to 44 months in prison for his participation in a scheme to cash more than $400,000 in fraudulently obtained federal tax refund checks issued in other people’s names. MEJIA pled guilty to one count of theft of public funds and one count of aggravated identity theft in December 2014 before U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer, who imposed today’s sentence.
According to the allegations in the Complaint and Information filed in this case, and statements made at related court proceedings:
Until March 2014, MEJIA worked at branches of a bank (“Bank-1”) in Yonkers and Manhattan. MEJIA initially was a banker and later became the branch manager of multiple branches of Bank-1. From 2010 through 2013, MEJIA participated in a scheme to fraudulently obtain and cash tax refund checks issued by the United States Treasury. The fraudulent refund checks were generated by the filing of false and fraudulent tax returns in the names of other people (the “Purported Filers”), and the checks were made payable to the Purported Filers. As part of this scheme, MEJIA helped facilitate the cashing of the fraudulent refund checks.
In particular, MEJIA obtained personal identification information for the Purported Filers, including their Social Security numbers and dates of birth. MEJIA then cashed the fraudulent checks himself or by paying a co-conspirator to do so. When cashing a fraudulent check himself, MEJIA presented the refund check, along with the corresponding Social Security number and date of birth of the Purported Filer, to a complicit bank employee. Other times, MEJIA paid a co-conspirator to open bank accounts in the names of the Purported Filers and cash the checks. As part of the scheme, MEJIA cashed, or caused others to cash, more than $400,000 in fraudulent Treasury checks.
In imposing the sentence, Judge Engelmayer told MEJIA: “You played a central role in a fraud that cost the IRS more than $442,000. That was money that the IRS uses to pay for the public good; it pays for first responders, it pays for teachers, it pays for other government employees, it goes to clean our streets, it goes to clean our parks, it goes to fund our military. Tax fraud is a very serious matter. It should be taken every bit as seriously as fraud directed to individual victims.”
In addition to the term of prison, MEJIA, 31, was sentenced to three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $442,642.58 in forfeiture and $442,642.58 in restitution.
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding efforts of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in this investigation.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Cohen is in charge of the prosecution.
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