Two men accused of using tax-preparing business for massive refund thefts
Two South Florida men were ordered held without bond Monday after federal authorities said they have substantial evidence to link them to millions of dollars in income tax fraud and identity theft.
Geto Dorlizier, 34, and Jourmel Thomas, 47, were arrested last week on allegations they used their tax-preparing businesses to illegally obtain at least $100,000 in tax refund checks.
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But federal prosecutors said the two Palm Beach County men will likely be indicted on much more serious charges, partly because Dorlizier told undercover federal agents he cashed more than $29 million worth of income tax checks in the past two years – mostly at a Boca Raton check-cashing store, but also at a Delray Beach business.
“Dorlizier indicated that some of the people whose names appear on the income tax checks are unaware that income tax returns were filed in their names. Dorlizier also stated that he files tax returns for clients who ‘don’t work for real,'” agents wrote.
Defense attorneys for the men, accused of operating a conspiracy, said that if they’re guilty of anything, it’s acting as “brokers” or “middlemen” for bigger fish.
Dorlizier was “puffing” — exaggerating what he did to make himself seem more important or to get business, his attorney Michael Mirer told a judge during a hearing Monday in federal court in West Palm Beach.
Dorlizier told the undercover agents, who he thought were involved in the alleged conspiracy, that he had purchased a six-bedroom house in Boynton Beach’s Canyon Isles for just shy of $575,000 in cash last year, FBI Agent Daniel Szczepanski testified. Record checks showed he did so in March, agents said, though Dorlizier’s lawyer said he and his wife used money from the sale of another home to pay for it. Dorlizier reported he earned about $60,000 per year.
The two men were arrested Wednesday when FBI agents and Delray Beach police swooped in on the offices of JT’s Paperworks & Tax Services in Lake Worth and Atlantic Multi-Services in Delray Beach, according to court records.
The men were arrested on allegations of conspiracy to steal money from the United States government and forge endorsements on U.S. Treasury checks, though prosecutors said they will take the case to a grand jury and agents are analyzing records seized from the businesses that indicate there may be several thousand victims and millions of dollars in fraudulent tax return checks cashed.
Agents said they found a book on hiding assets — with a chapter on offshore limited liability corporations bookmarked —in Dorlizier’s office, and he told them he used two banks in Haiti, apparently to conceal money.
Thomas and Dorlizier also appeared to be running a “private lottery” – which prosecutors said would violate state law – out of Thomas’s office. People paid cash to participate and Thomas and Dorlizier issued cash prizes, federal proscutor Marc Osborne said.
The men’s lawyers said the men, who were born in Haiti, are naturalized U.S. citizens with strong links to Palm Beach County and no prior criminal records. Agents said Thomas tried to flee when he realized he was going to be arrested and led them on a low-speed chase for several blocks — and veered into oncoming traffic — before stopping.
Agents said a source they did not identify tipped them off in late April that the men wanted someone to cash fraudulent income tax checks. Undercover FBI employees met with Dorlizier and Thomas and claimed they could cash the checks.
During the secretly recorded meeting, Dorlizier said that in future conversations they should use the code words “candles” or “candle lights” to refer to the fraudulent income tax checks.
Agents said Dorlizier told them he sometimes filed income tax returns for people he called “basers,” or drug addicts, by paying the person a fee, using their information to seek an inflated tax refund for a few thousand dollars and pocketing the difference, agents wrote in court records.
In May, the two men turned over several tens of thousands of dollars worth of refund checks with copies of fake or altered Florida driver’s licenses or Social Security numbers and forged signatures on some of the checks, agents wrote. Thomas told them he could provide fake driver’s licenses for $550 each, prosecutors told the judge.
U.S. Magistrate Judge James Hopkins said it seemed “highly likely” the defendants would be facing more serious charges and ordered them imprisoned with no bond, saying they were a flight risk and a danger to the community.
“This is a huge problem facing our community right now,” Hopkins said.
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