PHILADELPHIA (April 27, 2021)-- – Acting United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Luis Veras-Velasquez, 37, formerly of Philadelphia, PA, pleaded guilty to the charge of aggravated identity theft before United States District Court Judge Gerald J. Pappert related to a scheme to steal income tax refunds.
On April 23, 2015, a federal grand jury returned an indictment against the defendant, alleging that he engaged in a scheme to obtain tax refunds using stolen identities. According to the Indictment, Veras-Velasquez possessed numerous documents containing the names, dates of birth, and social security numbers of victim taxpayers. Internal Revenue Service records show that more than 20 of those identities were used to seek tax refunds without the knowledge or authorization of the taxpayer named on the return. Before he could answer to these charges in federal court, the defendant fled to Dominican Republic, where he remained for five years. Then in September 2020, Veras-Velasquez boarded a flight from the Dominican Republic to Mexico and was subsequently arrested.
“Veras-Velasquez’ scheme victimized honest taxpayers in two ways: first, by stealing their identities; and second, by trying to rip off the federal government,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Williams. “Now, he will face the consequences – even after attempting to evade justice overseas for five years – as will anybody else who attempts to carry out a similar scheme.”
“Investigating refund fraud and identity theft is a top priority for the Agents in my office,” said Thomas Fattorusso, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation. “This individual demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the integrity of the United States tax system and caused harm to those individuals whose identities he stole. The defendant thought he could flee the country after he committed his crimes, but he could not outrun justice.”
“Homeland Security Investigations remains committed to investigating those who use stolen identities to steal money from the United States by filing false tax returns and claiming fraudulent tax refunds,” said Brian A. Michael, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations Philadelphia. “The defendant’s guilty plea should serve as a reminder that attempting to defraud the federal government will result in serious consequences.”
If convicted, the defendant faces a mandatory sentence of two years in prison.
The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service and Homeland Security Investigations, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney David J. Ignall.
An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.