MANATEE -- An imprisoned gang member and his two sisters have been charged with using stolen Social Security numbers to file false tax returns and pocket at least $17,000 in fraudulent refunds, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
Authorities say the scheme victimized several people in Florida, including two people who served jail time with Justino Santana, 29, a documented member of the East Side Crips street gang, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. The victims told investigators they did not know about the false returns and tax refunds and that they hadn't received any of the pWWroceeds.
Leticia Salas, 31, and Lucina Santana-Gonzalez, 25, have been charged with organized scheming to defraud and four counts of identity theft. Their brother, will face the same charges when he is brought back to Manatee by the Florida Department of Corrections, according to a news release.
Officials say Santana provided the stolen Social Security numbers to Salas and Santana-Gonzalez so that they could file fraudulent income tax returns.
Detectives said the suspects ran the alleged scheme from September 2010 through March 2011. As part of their investigation, detectives listened to and/or watched recordings of conversations at the Manatee jail between Santana and his sisters in which they allegedly used code words to discuss the scheme.
When they received tax refund checks, Salas and Santana-Gonzalez cashed them at their local bank. The amount they received probably total more than $17,000, according to the news release.
"(T)he investigators say that the amount was much probably much higher as the parties involved were cashing IRS checks at various business locations throughout Manatee County, where those transactions couldn’t be verified or traced," the release states.
Salas and Santana-Gonzalez were being held without bond at the Manatee County jail.
Santana, who has a lengthy criminal record, was sentenced earlier this year to 6 1/2 years in prison after he was convicted in Manatee County of racketeering and conspiracy charges.