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October 24, 2018

Georgia Man Sentenced in Refund Scheme Using Stolen Tax Information

On August 13, 2018, in the Northern District of Georgia, Abdulrahman Tijani was sentenced for the theft of public money, aggravated identity theft, and making a false statement. Tijani had been arrested by agents of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) Cybercrime Investigations Division (CCID) in October 2017 and pled guilty to the offenses in March 2018.

According to the court documents, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) maintains a computerized eAuthentication system, which was designed to verify and authenticate taxpayers' identities and enable them to gain access to IRS services that are provided over the Internet. One such service, Get Transcript, allows an individual taxpayer to request and receive a transcript of his or her IRS tax records online. Through the use of this application, the taxpayer can obtain his or her tax account transactions, line-by-line tax return information, and wage and income information that was reported to the IRS for a specific tax year.

In 2015, TIGTA began investigating a group that used stolen Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to file fraudulent tax returns with the IRS. Before filing the returns, the perpetrators requested victim tax information through the IRS eAuthentication Get Transcript program. By using this program, the perpetrators were able to gain access to victims' prior year tax information and test the validity of the stolen PII. Between February 2015 and April 2015, seven e-mail accounts were used in attempts to create Get Transcript accounts using the PII of more than 260 individuals with addresses in 34 States. Of these, 225 individual accounts were successful in passing all levels of authentication. Tax records were subsequently obtained and/or viewed for 175 individual victims.

Tijani's cell phone number, known addresses, and e-mail addresses were identified in connection with accounts established in the names of others. Forty-seven fraudulent returns claiming approximately $265,960 in refunds were filed using accounts associated with Tijani. Of these 47 fraudulent returns, the IRS issued 12 refunds totaling $50,221.20.

Banking records from one of the accounts that received a fraudulent refund showed the purchase of a $791.65 U.S. Postal Service Money Order by Tijani. The money order was made payable to the Department of Homeland Security in connection with Tijani's submission of a Federal immigration form. Additionally, Tijani made a false statement on that immigration form regarding his fitness to become a permanent resident of the United States, by stating that he had never knowingly committed any crime of moral turpitude for which he had not been arrested.

Tijani was sentenced to 48 months' imprisonment. Upon completion of his imprisonment, Tijani will be turned over to immigration officials for appropriate removal proceedings from the United States. He was further ordered to pay $50,221 in restitution to the Department of the Treasury.

    Source:  The facts in this case narrative come from the following publicly available documents: N.D. Ga. Crim. Compl. filed Oct. 5, 2017; N.D. Ga. Indict. filed Nov. 21, 2017; N.D. Ga. Plea Agr. filed Mar. 30, 2018; N.D. Ga. Judgment filed Aug. 13, 2018.