2 ex-Tampa police detectives indicted on tax fraud charges

29 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Disgraced ex-Tampa police officers indicted on tax fraud charges.

TAMPA — More than a year after a federal investigation began into the activities of a former Tampa police detective and his wife, a former police sergeant, the couple have been indicted on federal charges including identity theft, money laundering and theft of government property.

But two years ago, jail recordings picked up collusive chatter between the wife and Rita Girven, a Tampa police informer who was close to both Houstons. They appeared in federal court later in the day to face the charges in a 24-page indictment, which details what authorities say is a conspiracy that included using police databases in tax refund fraud as far back as 2010.

Federal authorities said more than 4,000 people whose information Eric Houston ran through a police database later had fake tax refunds filed in their name. The indictment doesn’t say who filed the tax returns but it tells of fraudulent refunds going to pay off the Houstons’ charge card bills in 2011 at Target, Home Depot, JCPenney, Sears and Best Buy, and paying for work on their swimming pool. Prospective victims — in some cases, deceased — came right out of Tampa Police Department databases, including state driver and motor vehicle records, the indictment said. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Jenkins went along with a prosecution suggestion that the couple be released on their own recognizance while the case against them is pending. The scheme, authorities said, was was happening at a time when the department struggled to get control of a wave of personal identity tax fraud among street criminals.

For part of that time, Tampa led the nation in stolen identity refund fraud in which criminals drained billions from federal coffers by using stolen identity information to file phony tax returns to trick the IRS into sending the crooks bogus “refunds.” The fraud was so pervasive even some police officers’ identities were stolen and used by the thieves, including the identity of one who was killed in the line of duty. Houston.” They sat a row apart from each other in a jury box with two convicted felons who also had matters before the judge, including one who served time in both state and federal prison for gun and drug charges. Asked why the investigation took so long, Bret Crockett, spokesman for IRS Criminal Investigation Divsion, released a statement from Kimberly Lappin, who is in charge of the Tampa field office: “Complex financial investigations involving multiple co-conspirators can take time to unravel, and this case was no exception.” According to the indictment, Lajoyce Houston’s father’s personal information was used to file for a fraudulent refund, and his address was used by conspirators on fraudulent tax returns. State criminal charges relating to the food stamp card were later dismissed against LaJoyce Houston after she argued she didn’t know what she did was illegal.

A search warrant affidavit filed in August said detectives were told that Girven drove around Tampa looking for older drivers and would give their license plate information to Bright, who would look them up in police databases and give the information to Girven. Evidence described in various court documents paints a picture of an unusually close relationship between the Houstons and Girven, who was a registered police informant and convicted thief.

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