Washington County resident tricked by man posing as tax official, feds say
By Brendan Kirby
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MOBILE, Alabama (WALA) — A Washington County resident shelled out more than $19,000 after being tricked by a con artist posing as a tax official, federal prosecutors say.
An indictment delivered by a federal grand jury alleges that a man believed to be India, identified as “Iam Bishop”, or possibly Mihir Jain, contacted the victim in March 2018 and demanded payment of tax arrears.
Prosecutors allege the victim, identified in the indictment by the initials CEN, wired $8,120 to Trevizo’s bank account and then sent another $11,023 to pay a lawyer to overturn an arrest warrant . Trevizo pleaded not guilty this week to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to launder the proceeds of wire fraud.
A judge has set jury selection for Nov. 28. If convicted, Tevizo faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, although the actual sentence is likely to be less under the sentencing advisory guidelines.
Federal defender Carlos Williams said Trevizo was not posing as an IRS agent.
“My client didn’t impersonate anyone. … She doesn’t even know the other person,” he said. “Someone proposed to her online.”
The wire fraud charges stem from two wire transfers the Washington County resident made to Trevizo’s bank account, according to the indictment. The money laundering conspiracy charge relates to financial transactions that prosecutors say were designed in whole or in part to conceal the nature, location and control of the proceeds of illegal activity.
The type of scam alleged in the indictment is one of many cases handled by IRS criminal investigators. In fiscal year 2021, the agency identified $10 billion in tax and financial crimes. This includes everything from scammers posing as IRS agents to people filing fraudulent returns.
Lisa Fontanette, the assistant special agent in charge of the IRS office that covers Alabama and Georgia, said people should know that the only way the agency communicates with taxpayers is by mail.
“We don’t email them,” she told FOX10 News. “We don’t call them on the phone. We are not threatening them that we are picking you up to take you to jail if you don’t pay. And also, we also tell people that the IRS will never ask for gift card or cryptocurrency payment.
Fontanette said it is wrong to assume everyone is sophisticated enough to avoid becoming victims.
People fall in love with them,” she said. “And there has been an increase in these scams over the last two years. And the best line of defense is the taxpayers, the front line, just knowing that the IRS will never contact you by calling you on the phone, or by sending you an e-mail or an SMS.
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