Scheme sought $40M in tax refunds using stolen IDs of AL residents, others

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Marc Bell of Bowie, MD, is the latest person to plead guilty to federal charges related to an identity theft and tax fraud scheme in which a network of more than 130 people filed at least 12,000 fraudulent federal income tax returns in the names of assisted living residents and others, seeking refunds of at least $40 million from the U.S. Treasury, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Bell is one of roughly 15 people who have pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for their roles in the scheme, which involved tax years 2005 through 2013. He himself admitted Jan. 5 to assisting in the filing of at least 1,160 false returns seeking more than $4.4 million in refunds, according to the justice department.

At the time of the crimes, Bell was working as a program manager, program officer or placement expeditor for the District of Columbia's Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, an agency responsible for the supervision, custody and care of young people charged with delinquent acts in the nation's capital and either detained in or committed to a department facility. There, he stole the names and social security numbers of at least 645 youth from the department's database, according to the justice department, and he passed along the information to his partners, who filed the claims.

The IRS issued about 700 checks, totaling more than $2.4 million, in the names of the youth in whose names the tax returns were filed. Bell was paid by his co-conspirators for providing the stolen identities, according to the justice department.

Bell pleaded guilty to three charges: conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to claims, aiding and abetting in the filing of fictitious or false claims, and aiding and abetting fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents. At his sentencing, scheduled for April 20, he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the conspiracy charge, five years for the false claims charge and 15 years for the charge of fraud related to identification documents. As part of his plea agreement, Bell also agreed to pay almost $2 million in restitution to the IRS.

In addition to assisted living residents and youth, others whose identities were stolen via the scheme were elderly, drug addicts or incarcerated prisoners. Other refunds were sent to people who willingly participated in the scheme, according to the Department of Justice.

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