Jennifer Meier Hunt, a former employee at Tampa-based staffing agency Kforce, pleaded guilty this week to charges related to stealing workers’ identity information for use in tax refund fraud. Hunt was charged in federal court in Tampa with theft of government property and aggravated identity theft.
According to Hunt’s plea agreement, an informant alerted the FBI in April 2011 that two Kforce human resources employees, including Hunt, were accessing a company database and stealing identifying information for use in tax refund fraud. Called stolen identity tax refund fraud, the fraud involves the use of stolen names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth to file bogus tax returns to trick the government into sending fraudulent refunds to the thieves. This has been a hot topic locally as we’ve seen dozens of tax fraud cases filed in Tampa’s federal court over the past year.
FBI agents met with Kforce executives in Tampa and learned the company was already conducting an investigation into whether any of its help desk employees were committing identity theft for tax fraud. The company identified Hunt as one of the employees accessing information.
The FBI investigation determined Hunt had used the stolen identities to file 75 fraudulent income tax returns between Feb. 2 and May 2, 2011. Of those returns, the IRS accepted 47 of the filings, sending about $97,000 in fraudulent refunds to Hunt. If she had been successful in filing all 75 returns, she would have received more than $187,000 from the federal government via fraud.
Kforce officials said the employees involved were terminated two years ago and, at that time, the company notified everyone who was known to have been affected by the theft of the information.