Tuesday, December 1, 2020

IRS uncovers $2.3 billion fraud in 2020 across 1600 investigations

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The IRS uncovered $2.3 billion in tax fraud during the 2020 fiscal year, according to an annual report released by the agency on Monday.

The Criminal Investigation Division of the IRS said in its report that its current priorities include Covid-19-related fraud, cybercrimes and other tax-related crimes. The division also investigates non-tax-related crimes like money laundering and narcotics trafficking.

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“Even in the face of a global pandemic, the CI workforce initiated nearly 1,600 investigations and identified $2.3 billion in tax fraud schemes,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a statement. “This is no small feat during a challenging year, and their work is critical to protecting taxpayers and the integrity of our tax system.”

Special agents adapted their investigative techniques this year in order to probe fraudulent claims made under federal coronavirus relief programs, according to the report.

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These included false claims made under economic impact payments, Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and refundable payroll tax credits from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

“Clearly, unscrupulous individuals sought to exploit the economic safeguards put in place to buttress a nation in crisis,” IRS Criminal Investigation Chief Jim Lee said in a statement. “These individuals and groups were instead met with a cadre of special agents determined to thwart their efforts.”

Pointing out that “criminals don’t stop committing crimes just because there is a national health emergency,” the report details findings of certain individuals using the relief funds to purchase luxury items like yachts and sports cars.

One man whose efforts were thwarted by the IRS cadre was 29-year-old Miami resident David Hines.

The Florida man was charged with fraudulently obtaining $3.9 million in PPP loans and using some of those funds to buy a 2020 Lamborghini Huracan sports car worth $318,000.

The annual report looks back on major take-downs that occurred throughout the country between October 2019, when the 2020 fiscal year began, and Sept. 30.

The division says it initiated 1,598 cases this year and spent about 73% of its time working on tax-related probes.

It also reflected on the results of investigations that the Criminal Investigations Division had launched into dark corners of the internet.

On Aug. 13 for example, multiple IRS-based complaints were unsealed in the District of Columbia detailing a “coordinated effort to dismantle three terrorist financing cyber-enabled campaigns.”

The online campaigns, which involved the al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, al-Qaeda and ISIS, were interrupted by the IRS in what the agency on Monday called “the government’s largest-ever seizure of cryptocurrency in the terrorism context.”

“Pursuant to judicially-authorized warrants, U.S. authorities seized millions of dollars, over 300 cryptocurrency accounts, four websites, and four Facebook pages all related to the criminal enterprise,” the report says.

One of these websites was a front for ISIS that allegedly peddled fake N-95 masks to hospitals, nursing homes and first responders amid supply shortages.

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