Orlando men arrested, accused of stealing millions using fake tax returns


A group of men were accused of stealing more than $6 million from fake tax returns, using the identities of people who don’t live in the United States and at least two of the men operated the scheme out of central Florida, police said.

Federal authorities said Jose Diaz and his three accomplices were out to steal more than $50 million from the U.S. government.

The scheme stretched from Orlando to New York City to Puerto Rico.

Authorities said the group stole countless Puerto Rican Social Security numbers, claimed the people lived in the states, then filed their tax returns in the U.S.

Hundreds of the returns were filed out of a homes and apartments in Orlando. In the end, the group made off with more than $6 million.

U.S. Marshals arrested Diaz and two other men, including Joel Pichardo, also from Orlando.

Investigators said Diaz was so bold he stole his neighbor’s unsecured wireless Internet to file at least 400 fake returns.

"I just think that's ridiculous. You're invading people's privacy," said resident Julian Vaughn.

The massive investigation began in 2009, when some of the refund checks were returned undeliverable.

Authorities later determined they were fraudulent and began the long process of tracing them to IP addresses in Orlando.

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