Updated:POLK COUNTY, Fla. —
Polk County detectives said they busted a major tax fraud ring on Tuesday.
They said the suspects stole hundreds of identities, and then filed fraudulent tax returns online.
Detectives said most of the nearly 400 victims whose identities were stolen live in local nursing homes.
Investigators said the crooks stole nearly $500,000 from the IRS, and said they have arrested 19 suspects since last September.
"Quite frankly, they're stealing us blind," said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
Detectives said the investigation began in local nursing homes, where some of the suspects worked. They stole the identities of the patients, filed fraudulent tax returns in their names, and then pocketed the refunds, investigators said.
Despite the federal offense, Judd said the government refused to help.
"Guess how much information we got from the IRS to work on this case? Zero," Judd said.
The sheriff said the suspects filed the phony returns online through Turbo Tax and quickly received refunds.
"There are actually YouTube videos now telling how to do it, explaining how it's done," said Judd.
WFTV watched one rap video, bragging about how easy it is.
The sheriff said one of the suspects spent his fraudulent tax refund on a flashy sports car.
"Go home. Whenever you look at your statement on your next paycheck, think, 'I feel so good knowing every bit of this money went to these thieves,'" Judd said.
According Judd, the federal government said they were not allowed to turn over any tax returns to his detectives.
Judd said the IRS needs to figure out how to stop the fraud.