(from TAMPA BAY TIMES)
TAMPA — The Internal Revenue Service released a map Thursday that seemed straight from the weather report.
Florida needs a life preserver.
The droplets showed where IRS-Criminal Investigations has been busy putting pressure on identity thieves. Like never before, the agency’s enforcement arm is going after people who claim tax refunds under false identities to steal public money.
Nationally, new investigations tripled from 2011 to 2012 and are on pace to break records this year amid a “massive nationwide sweep” in 215 cities, the IRS chief said Thursday.
“These numbers show the IRS is very serious about pursuing identity thieves and protecting taxpayers,” he said. “We’ve taken these aggressive actions because we realize how serious a problem identity theft is for taxpayers, for the tax system and for Florida.”
The IRS has a history of saber-rattling during tax season to dissuade people from cheating. But there’s no denying that in recent weeks, its criminal arm has seen a string of investigations lead to federal charges, some in Tampa.
In the past four months, the agency reports, criminals have been sentenced in 90 cases nationally, and hundreds more court cases are in the pipeline.
“When these individuals go to jail,” he said, “they’re spending an average of four years in custody. We’ve seen sentences as long as 262 months nationwide. That’s more than 20 years.”
He credited the assistance of local law enforcement and the efforts of federal prosecutors.
[ READ FULL STORY ]