LOS ANGELES – City Attorney Mike Feuer today announced that his office has filed charges against an individual for allegedly cashing a stolen tax refund check. The criminal filing comes in conjunction with the issuance of a consumer scam alert one month ahead of the April 17 filing deadline.
"The arrival of tax season brings with it an increased risk of tax-related fraud and identity theft," said Feuer. "My office strongly encourages taxpayers to take simple but necessary steps to protect themselves. My message to thieves and scammers—we are watching you and we will prosecute you."
Demetria Seabrooks, 22, was charged with one count each of identity theft, grand theft, and possession of stolen property for her alleged involvement in cashing and receiving funds from a stolen IRS tax refund check. Seabrooks came to the attention of authorities after a Southgate resident reported that his tax refund check of $3,347 was missing. Once the U.S. Department of the Treasury flagged the check, authorities learned that the check had been allegedly deposited into a bank account opened by Seabrooks. If convicted, Seabrooks could face up to two years in jail, and a fine of up to $6,000.
Arraignment for Seabrooks is scheduled for April 25, 2018 in Department 48 of the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in Los Angeles.
City Attorney Feuer has also launched a public education campaign in English and Spanish recommending that tax-filers:
E-file, or for paper filing, choose direct deposit. To avoid mail theft, it is best to e-file tax returns using a secure internet connection, and have refunds directly deposited into your bank account. Taxpayers filing by mail should opt for direct deposit.
Avoid phishing scams. Personal information should never be shared with an unconfirmed source over the phone or on the computer, and you should never click on email links that claim to be from the IRS. The IRS will not contact you by text, email or social media; make a first demand for payment by phone; demand payment by wire transfer or pre-paid debit card; or threaten taxpayers with arrest for non-payment of taxes. Taxpayers should, however, respond as soon as possible to legitimate mail from the IRS.
File early. The IRS recommends filing taxes as early as possible to ensure that someone doesn’t steal your identity and file a fraudulent tax return in your name before you do.
Protect personal information. Taxpayers using tax preparation services should verify the tax preparer identification numbers of such services and ask tax preparers about their data security policies. Sensitive items such as social security cards should be kept at home and personal identification documents should never be left in your car.
Report suspicious activity. Taxpayers should monitor their bank accounts, credit reports and the mail, especially during tax season. Suspicious activity and missing documents should be promptly reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency.
Individuals who wish to report tax identity theft are reminded that—in addition to contacting the IRS or State Franchise Tax Board they may file consumer complaints directly with our office.
This case was investigated by Brandon Knarr, Assistant Special Agent in Charge with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, and Ronald Barnes, Special Agent of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and prosecuted by Deputy City Attorney Heidi Matz.