Operation Rainmaker: A Tax Fraud Epidemic

Earlier this year, Tampa police detectives realized a decrease in the amount of drug dealers on street corners. Instead of feeling relieved, detectives became worried – this was the first red flag that something was up.

Where was everyone? How were they making money? According to a recent investigation, they were allegedly involved in a money-spinning tax fraud business bringing in $130 million. Instead of putting themselves in danger on street corners, the individuals involved could do this job from the comfort of their own homes; all they needed was a laptop.

As reported by the Seminole Heights Patch, a suspect told Tampa Police Detective Sal Augeri, “Why would I take the risk to sell drugs and get busted when I can put $10,000 on a card and do it all day long from home while the cartoons are on?”

The operation was not sophisticated. The suspects allegedly would log onto sites like Ancestry.com, dig up information on victims (living and deceased) and eventually steal their identity. Another workaround was to buy the information from people who had access to social security numbers (prisons, businesses etc.).

After the information was obtained, the suspect could go to electronic tax filling applications like TurboTax, file a fraudulent claim and have the refund sent somewhere that was untraceable to the individual. Taxpayers soon discovered they could not claim their tax refunds because one had already been filed – this was the second red flag.

The third red flag, and the one that led to the entire investigation, was the fact that police officers were pulling over suspects and finding laptops and Green Dot credit cards.

Making any moves in the investigation was difficult because of the restrictions set by the IRS. The police had to find a way around the obstacles under a federal law that prevents law enforcement from gaining access to tax returns.

Tampa Police Department has joined forces with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the Secret Service, the US Postal Inspection Service, the State Attorney’s Office 13th Judicial Circuit and the US Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida. The investigation, named Operation Rainmaker, has resulted “…in $100 million in intercepted taxes, $5 million in recovered taxes and assets, and $25 million in stolen taxes.”

Although we are making progress in the Tampa area, Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor said, “My gut feeling is that this is happening throughout the United States.” This case is a classic example of why citizens must be vigilant in the protection of their personal identification information, especially for the elderly and their children.

You’ve Received a letter from the FBI about Mortage Fraud, What should you do?

If the FBI contacts you and they want to speak with you about your mortgage, the first order of business is to contact a Tampa Criminal Defense Lawyer . One that is experienced and Board Certified is even better. Speaking with the government about mortgage fraud before contacting a criminal defense lawyer is not in your best interest.

The government could be investigating you due to the real estate boom of the early 2000′s. Tampa Criminal Defense Lawyer, Lori D. Palmieri explains that,

“Although most people applied for mortgages completely and truthfully, some individuals were mislead by unscrupulous brokers. Some brokers falsified paperwork in order to expedite the loan approval.”

Many clients admit to not reading all of the documents that they signed at closing. Unfortunately, unscrupulous parties can take advantage of this and add, remove or falsify certain documents.

The most important thing you can do when in a mortgage fraudsituation is to contact a Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney before speaking to anyone. It is completely acceptable to tell the government that you would like to wait until your attorney is present before making any statements.

Sealing and Expungement- What you need to know.

The outcome of a case can end in many ways: paying fines, serving probation, spending time in jail or prison etc.,

Once you have been convicted or adjudicated guilty, your record is no longer clear. But what happens if your charge was never filed?

Tampa Criminal Defense Lawyer, Lori D. Palmieri explains in this videothat although your charge was never filed, your record is still not clear and those charges will show if a background check is conducted.

“That is the reason why, despite having the good fortune of not having those charges filed against you, you still need to go back and go through the formal expungement or sealing process whatever the situation may be.”

The sealing and expungment process allows you to legally deny any arrests covered by the sealed or expunged record. You may only use this process ONCE in a lifetime though, so use it wisely.

The primary requirement for the two processes is that the applicant has never been convicted or adjudicated guilty no matter what state or country. Your record follows you anywhere you go.

There are different requirements for the expungement and sealing processes. Expungement requires that the charge was dismissed by the court/prosecutor while sealing requires that the applicant must serve probation.

However there are crimes that cannot be sealed regardless of the type of sentence. These crimes can include drug trafficking, robberies and aggravated batteries. For a longer list of crimes that cannot be sealed or expunged visit the sealing and expungement tab of the Palmieri site.

How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Tampa?

It depends! Watch this video by Tampa Criminal Defense Lawyer Lori D. Palmieri where she highlights the general types of fees that one may come across when seeking representation.

For most criminal cases, a flat fee is determined based on the lawyer’s experience and how much time and work will go into the case. However, some lawyers do charge an hourly rate.

“That usually is not to the benefit of the client because experienced lawyers have a high hourly rate on average and it’s usually a much better situation for a client to agree upon a flat fee.”

When considering Attorney Lori D. Palmieri for representation, she bases her fees firstly on the following components:

  • What are you charged with?
  • What type of crime are you under investigation for?
  • Is it a federal crime or a state crime?
  • Is it a felony or is it a misdemeanor?

Secondly, she considers how much time she will put into the case.

“When you hire me, you get me. I personally handle every case and I determine how much time is needed to effectively represent you.”

Palmieri keeps her fees at a reasonable price for the amount of experience and quality representation that you will receive.

Ratings and Reviews

Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Rated

FL Bar Board Certified

Former Prosecutor