SEVEN Zimbabweans have been indicted for using stolen identities to obtain US$10 million in fraudulent income tax returns in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Prosecutors estimate that since 2007, the group filed Internal Revenue Service refund claims that total as much as US$10 million.
Named in the indictment are Kudzaiishe C. Marimbire, 34, Hlomera Mabhande, 30, Johanes Tagarisa, 37, Kudzaishe R. Bungu, 26, Tawanda Marimbire, 23, Andrew T. Bere, 22, and Julius Marimbire, 32.
"The indictment alleges that the defendants stole personal identifying information for thousands of actual people," said Carter Stewart, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio.
"They allegedly used this information to file false federal income tax returns to obtain refunds, often before the actual taxpayers ever filed legitimate tax returns. The defendants usually received the fraudulent refunds on debit cards tied to the returns."
Once the false income tax refunds were deposited on the prepaid debit cards, the defendants and others working on their behalf allegedly cashed them in at ATM machines or by purchasing money orders.
The cash was allegedly sent through bank wires to co-conspirators in Africa and used by the conspirators to buy expensive vehicles here then transport them to Zimbabwe.
The indictment alleges that Kudzaiishe Marimbire and his brother, Julius, started a tax preparation service in approximately 2007. The company was known as Express Refund Center, Marimbire Consultants, and HBM Management.
All seven are charged with conspiracy, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The indictment also includes charges of fraud, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, aggravated identity theft, punishable by at least two years, money laundering, punishable by up to ten years, making false claims, punishable by up to five years, and filing false income tax returns, punishable by up to three years in prison.
Five of the defendants are fugitives. Tawanda Marimbire is in custody outside of Ohio. He will be returned to Cincinnati to face the charges. Bungu has been summoned to appear in federal court in Cincinnati on September 13.