Given that this is a website written for accounting professionals and not, say, confused grandmas who think Steam cards are a valid form of payment for debts to the U.S. government, we rarely cover the topic of IRS phone scams. We assume, perhaps naively, that y’all are smarter than that and don’t need reminding. The exception being that time one of these idiots called felon and ex-Crazy Eddie CFO Sam Antar to attempt to strong arm him over a phony tax debt, which ended up being as hilarious as one might expect it to be.
Besides the fact that we shouldn’t have to advise accountants not to fall for obvious foreign IRS scams, I’ll be honest here: the government wasn’t really doing shit about it up until recently. That all changed when the Justice Department bitchslapped 24 known call center scammers with sentences of up to 20 years earlier this year. That sort of victory in the war against scamming deserves an accolade or two from the hallowed halls of accounting industry media. Now, it’s still true that if granny sends “Agent Patrick Smith” $3,500 in iTunes gift cards today, she’s probably still fucked and absolutely nothing will come of it, but at least authorities are attempting to track a few of these dipshits down and deliver good ol’ ‘Murican justice. So it goes without saying that victims should report the scam to authorities anyway, even if so many of these cases go unprosecuted.
Another IRS scammer just pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in Minnesota, where he visited up to 10 Target stores per day to redeem fraudulently-obtained Target gift cards purchased by his unsuspecting victims who believed him to be an IRS collection agent. He’s currently sitting in jail.
And yesterday came news that the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Eastern District of Arkansas sentenced five more of these losers, handing down a massive $9 million restitution sentence to one of them:
On Thursday, United States District Judge Billy Roy Wilson sentenced Yosvany Padilla, 27, of Hialeah, Fla., the leader of the conspiracy, to 135 months’ imprisonment, followed by two years of supervised release, and ordered the repayment of nearly $9 million in restitution. Padilla, in addition to personally collecting threat-induced wire transfers sent by victims believing they were paying owed taxes, supplied co-conspirators with false identification documents and coordinated the collection of wire transfers by other members of the conspiracy.
Also on Thursday, Judge Wilson sentenced Jeniffer Valerino Nuñez, 22, and Esequiel Bravo Diaz, 24, both from Miami, to federal prison. Nuñez, who collected more than $1.3 million in wire transfers from more than 1,050 victims, was sentenced to 47 months’ imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, and repayment of nearly $2.5 million in restitution. Diaz, who collected approximately $115,000 from 350 victims, was sentenced to 47 months’ imprisonment, followed by two years’ supervised release, and repayment of nearly $115,000 in restitution.
Look, here’s the thing. IRS scams may seem lazy and obvious to people like you, me, and Sam Antar, but to the Midwestern grandmas these dickwads are targeting, calls like these can be terrifying. In the case of the five turds above, investigators identified 6,282 nationwide victims for a total loss currently calculated at $10,735,762.61.
“Over the last several years, American taxpayers have been subjected to unprecedented attempts to fraudulently obtain money by individuals impersonating Internal Revenue Service employees,” TIGTA SAC Gary Smith said. “Victimizing taxpayers by impersonating IRS employees is a serious crime. TIGTA and our law enforcement partners will do everything within our power to ensure that those involved in the impersonation of IRS employees are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Today’s significant sentencings should serve notice to those who engage in this type of criminal activity that they will be held accountable.”
If y’all want a laugh, check out my new favorite Twitch streamer Kitboga as “Granny Edna” wasting an IRS scammer’s time. The scammer even advises “her” not to let the store know that she’s buying gift cards due to a call from the IRS.
If you are lucky enough to have a naive grandma (or grandpa, or aunt, or neighbor even) in your life, please make sure she knows that the IRS doesn’t call you EVER, and that her computer probably isn’t infected by viruses either if she happens to get a pop-up from “Microsoft.” The best weapon against these jackasses is education, and it’s up to those of us who would never make the mistake of thinking the IRS accepts Steam gift cards as payment to educate those who aren’t quite as well-versed in the ways of the world.