Local media reported another round of tax refund fraud charges in the Tampa Bay area recently. Federal prosecutors now claim that several former Hillsborough County high school football players participated in the scheme and even recruited students at the University of South Dakota to participate.
Just a few weeks ago, we reported on a Palm Harbor man charged in a similar alleged tax refund fraud scheme. In late September, 39 other area residents were indicted in a large scale tax refund scheme.
Now, prosecutors and IRS investigators accuse Alphonso Rico Valdez, a graduate of Chamberlain High School, of heading up a ring that involved at least six other athletes. An assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Sweeney told a federal magistrate in Tampa that Valdez recruited students at the University of South Dakota and people he knew in Tampa to gather names, addresses and other identifying information, and then used that information to file fraudulent tax returns.
They are accused of stealing more than $500,000 from U.S. taxpayers from June 2011 through May 2012. Also arrested in Tampa were Charlie Frank Adams, Jeremy Jamar Blount, Melissa Dinataly and Christopher Duane Frierson. Christopher Jamel Lundy was arrested in South Dakota, according to court records.
Authorities claim Valdez used preloaded debit cards to withdraw $900 in cash from an ATM in South Dakota. They say people committing tax refund fraud frequently direct that the fraudulent refunds be deposited on the debit cards.
Each defendant is charged with conspiracy to defraud the federal government, facing a maximum of 10 years in federal prison. All but Frierson also are charged with aggravated identity theft. If convicted of that charge, the defendants face up to two years in prison, which sentence would be required to be served consecutive to any other penalties imposed.
The assistant US attorney on the case told the court that Dinataly formerly worked at Universal Health Care in St. Petersburg where she obtained identifying information and gave it to Valdez.
Blount played football at Middleton High and at the University of South Dakota on scholarship. Valdez and Frierson are Chamberlain graduates and Lundy is a Tampa Catholic graduate. Valdez previously attend the University of South Dakota and now will reportedly transfer to the University of Tennessee where he received a football scholarship.