Two PB men convicted of $700,000 ID theft, fraud

Two PB men convicted of $700,000 ID theft, fraud

Two Palm Beach County men have been convicted of taking part in an identity theft conspiracy involving more than 1,000 fraudulent income tax returns, yielding about $700,000 in refunds, federal prosecutors announced Friday.

Lukner Blanc, 31, of Royal Palm Beach, and Benoit Placide, also known as “Snow” and “Mario,” of West Palm Beach, were convicted of conspiracy, fraud and aggravated identity theft charges.

Jurors in the federal trial in West Palm Beach deliberated for about nine hours over two days before reaching their verdict Wednesday.

The investigation started when authorities arrested Blanc in October 2012 on an unrelated state charge and found four debit cards – in other people’s names – in his pocket.

While Blanc was locked up on the state case, investigators monitored his phone calls from the Palm Beach County Jail. All inmates are repeatedly warned their phone calls are recorded.

Using information from the phone calls, investigators searched a West Palm Beach home and found computers used to file fraudulent tax returns, scores of Western Union debit cards and lists of names with Social Security numbers and dates of birth.

Blanc and others had the tax refunds transferred into bank accounts and debit cards they controlled. Money was later withdrawn from ATMs and stores, authorities said.

Blanc and Placide, who were jailed after the verdict, face a maximum of 22 years in federal prison when Senior U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley sentences them later this year.

Several other co-defendants previously pleaded guilty to their roles and are awaiting sentencing.

Another co-defendant, Jean Juste, 24, of West Palm Beach, pleaded guilty to related conspiracy, fraud and identity theft charges. He is serving seven years in federal prison and was ordered to pay nearly $670,000 in restitution.

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