SAN FRANCISCO (BCN)— A former Marin County man was convicted after a two-week trial in federal court today of using prison and jail inmates' social security numbers to get federal income tax refunds.
Howard Weber, 52, conspired with Clifford Bercovich, 69, of San Rafael, to file more than 700 false tax returns to receive more than $600,000, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a news release.
Weber and Bercovich conspired between June 2010 and January 2012 to get the names and social security numbers of inmates at San Quentin State Prison, Santa Clara County Jail and the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, according to federal prosecutors.
Weber convinced the inmates their names and social security numbers would help them take advantage of government programs, and he recruited certain inmates to get the identities, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Weber created a limited liability company, Inmate Recovery and Liquidation Services, to make the scheme appear legitimate, prosecutors said.
The fraudulent tax returns falsely represented the inmates' earned wages and other income to claim refunds. Both defendants opened a post office box and claimed it as the taxpayer's address on each false return that included refund checks.
The defendants sometimes directed the refunds be wired to bank accounts they opened and controlled, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Bercovich pleaded guilty in December to conspiracy, mail fraud and aggravated identity theft. He is scheduled to be sentenced April 11 by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco.
Weber will be sentenced by Judge Seeborg May 16 for mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison. Weber also faces a mandatory minimum of two years in prison for aggravated identity theft and an additional period of supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties.
"Today's guilty verdict brings a just end to Mr. Weber's scheme to fraud the United States," U.S. Attorney Brian J. Stretch said. "This office will continue to devote its resources to ensure that those who enrich themselves by using the identities of others and filing false tax returns are apprehended and prosecuted," Stretch said.