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Deducting Foster Children
June 12, 2014 permalink
Philadelphia social worker Gebah Kamara and three others sold identity information on foster children so taxpayers could falsely claim them as dependents.
Six charged with stealing identities of foster children
A former social worker and three employees of a residential care facility for the disabled have been charged with selling the identities of children in their care to help others cheat on their taxes - a scheme U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger described Thursday as "truly despicable."
Federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment accusing Gebah Kamara, 46, a Liberian national living in Sharon Hill, of stealing personal information from several foster children he encountered while working for Catholic Social Services, the charitable wing of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Also charged were Musa Turay, 41; Ibrahim Kamara, 48; Foday Mansaray, 38; three employees of Villanova-based Devereux Foundation, a charity that runs residential centers for patients with developmental disabilities. The three also held jobs at Medmans Financial Services, a Southwest Philadelphia tax preparation firm.
IRS investigators say that company's owner, Mohamed Mansaray, paid Gebah Kamara and the others for the stolen Social Security numbers and other information and then charged his clients $800 to claim the children as fraudulent dependents on their tax returns.
In addition to Mansaray and the three who worked for Devereux, two other employees of Medmans were also charged with counts of conspiracy, tax fraud and identity theft.
Momolu Sirleaf, owner of a separate tax-preparation service in Darby, also faces charges for a similar scheme involving the identification information involving foster children.
In all, prosecutors claim their purported fraud bilked the government out of at least $6 million in unpaid taxes between 2008 and 2013. Five of the eight defendants were arrested Thursday and made initial appearances in federal court in Philadelphia. All were released on bond after surrendering passports from West African nations such as Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Few had attorneys. Gebah Kamara and his lawyer, James Polyak, declined to comment about the case.
Representatives from Catholic Social Services did not return calls for comment Thursday. Gebah Kamara left the agency in 2011 for reasons unrelated to his arrest, Polyak said.
It remained unclear whether Devereux, whose spokeswoman also did not return calls, still employed Turay, Mansaray and Ibrahim Kamara.
The two Kamaras are not closely related.
If convicted, each of the eight defendants face possible decades-long prison terms.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Addendum: Another case of the same crime by a different participant.
Darby tax preparer charged with stealing foster kids' identities
A DARBY tax preparer has been charged with stealing the identities of foster children to falsely use their information on tax returns for his own benefit, according to an indictment unsealed yesterday.
Momolu Sirleaf, 34, of Wycombe Avenue, owned and operated I.E.S. Tax Services, of Darby.
According to the indictment:
Sirleaf obtained the names and Social Security numbers of kids in the foster-care system. He used their information to falsely add them as dependents on some of his clients' returns "to generate fraudulent refunds, some in excess of $8,000." He charged clients an extra fee of up to about $800 to falsely include these dependents on the tax returns.
He allegedly did this on returns filed from 2010 to 2012 for the previous tax years.
Sirleaf was arrested yesterday and was in court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Rice for his initial appearance.
He told Rice that he is now unemployed, and was appointed a lawyer. He will be arraigned next Thursday.
Sirleaf declined to speak to a reporter.
He was indicted last month and charged with aiding in the preparation of false income-tax returns, fraud and identity theft.
U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger and Special Agent-in-Charge Akeia Conner of the IRS' Criminal Investigation Division had harsh words for Sirleaf and for the defendants in the unrelated Medmans Financial Services case announced yesterday.
"The allegations in these indictments depict a disturbing practice of exploiting some of the most vulnerable members of our community," Memeger said in a statement. "Unfortunately, it is not unusual for criminals to injure victims through identity fraud and cheat the government of its tax revenue through tax fraud.
"But the conduct in these cases, in which the fraud schemes involved stealing identity information from disabled children and children in foster care, is truly despicable, and those who are responsible must be brought to justice," Memeger said.
Conner added in the statement: "Individuals who commit refund fraud and identity theft of this magnitude deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. [Yesterday's] arrests should serve as a strong warning to those who are considering similar conduct."
Source: Philadelphia Daily News