CHICAGO—Twenty-three new defendants are facing federal charges, along with a Skokie man who was arrested in April, alleging that they participated in a conspiracy since 2008 to claim more than $2.35 million in fraudulent federal income tax refunds and economic stimulus payments. All two dozen defendants allegedly shared the proceeds of Internal Revenue Service tax refunds, totaling more than $1.3 million, by withdrawing the tax funds deposited into co-defendants’ bank accounts, knowing that they were not entitled to the fraudulently obtained refunds.
Each of the 24 defendants was charged with one count of conspiracy to steal federal funds and defraud the IRS and one or more counts each of theft of government funds in one of two separate federal grand jury indictments that were unsealed after six of the defendants were arrested on Tuesday, federal law enforcement officials announced today.
The indictments followed the April arrest of Ovidiu Isac, 28, of Skokie, who allegedly directed the conspiracy. Isac and other defendants allegedly recruited co-conspirators to open bank accounts, withdraw the deposited tax refunds and stimulus payments, and share the proceeds.
The charges were announced by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Alvin Patton, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division; and Gary Hartwig, Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Investigations in Chicago. The investigation is continuing, the officials said.
The defendants arrested on Tuesday were Ovidiu Isac’s brother, Daniel Isac, 25, of Mount Prospect; Vasile George Husti, 19, of Chicago; John Pop, 25, of Bellevue, Wash., and formerly of Chicago; Marius Timofti, 26, of Chicago; and Cristian Talos, 31, and his wife, Virginia Talos, 27, both of Bothel Wash., and formerly of Chicago. All five were released on bond. Ovidiu Isac was previously released on bond. The remaining defendants will be arraigned at a later date in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
Also indicted were: Louis Lupancu, 22, of Chicago; Daniel Garbacz, 21, of Burbank; Miklos Ilyes, 47, of Chicago; Tomasz Mulica, 23, of Burbank; Costel Niculcea, 25, of Burbank; Stefan Valentin Niculcea, 28, of Burbank; Andrei Stanciu, 26, of Chicago; Ilie Stramturean, 26, of Chicago; Eugen Marius Szasz, 31, of Chicago; Marius Vainoras, 20, of Chicago Ridge; James McKibbin, 20, of Chicago; Bogdan Branisteanu, 28, of Chicago; Valeriu Soare, 27, of Skokie; Anca Andronache, 25, of Schiller Park; Maribel Juarez, 24, of Chicago; Simona Laba, 23, of Chicago; and Anuta Mihai, 26, of Arlington Heights.
According to the indictments, individual tax returns contained the names of Romanian nationals, including Romanian citizens who had traveled to the United States on J-1 exchange visitor visas. The returns included false W-2s showing employment income and false deductions, resulting in fraudulent claims for tax refunds. The indictments allege that for the tax years 2007, 2008 and 2009, more than 440 fraudulent tax returns were filed, directing the IRS to electronically deposit the refunds in bank accounts, primarily in the Chicago area.
Some of the defendants allegedly recruited individuals who agreed to open bank accounts, or use their existing bank accounts, to receive tax refunds and economic stimulus payments. When Ovidiu Isac or another recruiter notified the account holder that a refund had been deposited, the account holders typically withdrew the money, shared it with the recruiter, and kept some for themselves.
The conspiracy count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and each count of theft of government funds carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. In addition, restitution is mandatory to the United States for the amount of tax refunds and stimulus payments fraudulently obtained. If convicted, the court is required to impose a reasonable sentence under the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.