TAMPA, Fla. — A Florida man received an income tax refund of $980,000 two years ago -- but he only reported income of $18,497, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
It took a while, but Internal Revenue Service officials smelled something fishy and filed a federal forfeiture complaint in U.S. District Court in Tampa, the newspaper reported.
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According to IRS records, the average tax refund two years ago was about $3,000, the Times reported.
According to the complaint, in February 2017 Ramon Christopher Blanchett of Tampa electronically submitted a self-prepared tax return and listed his occupation as a "free-lancer," the Times reported. One W-2 form, which was accurate, showed that Blanchette earned $1,399 in income with no federal withholding tax. The other W-2 listed his income as $17,098 in wages and $1 million of withholding tax, the newspaper reported.
The complaint claims that Blanchett was actually paid $2,098 and no tax was withheld, according to the Times.
"Based on Blanchett's submission of the (tax return), falsely representing that $1 million in taxes had been withheld, the U.S. Treasury issued check No. 4038088544305, made payable to Blanchett, for $980,000,'' the complaint said.
Blanchett deposited the check into two accounts, but that bank froze the funds when officials suspected fraud and closed the accounts in May 2018, the Times reported.
The bank issued a cashier’s check for $980,000 to Blanchett, who opened a money market at a credit union, "falsely representing that the funds were from the estate of his deceased father,'' according to the complaint.
Blanchett transferred different amounts among several credit union accounts and withdrew $49,117, which was issued to him as a cashier's check, the Times reported.
On Aug. 9, he bought a 2016 silver Lexus RC350, the newspaper report.
However, the IRS obtained a federal seizure warrant and an agent took custody of the Lexus and the remaining $919,251 balance in Blanchett's accounts, the newspaper reported.
In January, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa filed the forfeiture complaint for the Lexus and the $919,251, according to the Times.
Blanchett has not been charged with a federal crime, the newspaper reported. He could not be reached for comment, and the IRS and the banks involved in the case declined comment, citing privacy concerns.
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