A former civilian employee of the Tampa Police Department has been indicted on
fraud charges; she is accused of conspiring to commit fraud and using police
databases to further the scheme.
T. Bright, 53, retired in 2014 as a community service officer. In court
on Tuesday afternoon, Bright wept as she was informed of her conditions
of release from custody. She also has to sign a document that says she
could have to fork over as much as $30,000 if she violated any of the
conditions of her release.
According to a search warrant affidavit, detectives were told that R. Girven,
Bright’s friend, would drive around Tampa looking for older individuals.
Girven would give their license plate information to Bright, who would
look up their information police databases and give that data to Girven.
Girven pleaded guilty to charges of stolen identity refund fraud, one of
the fastest-growing crimes in America. The crime involves stealing personal
information to file fake tax returns. She is waiting to be sentenced.
Girven captured the attention of the authorities due to her unusually close
relationship with two former Tampa PD detectives who lost their jobs under
a cloud of suspicion.
The former detectives, L. and E. Houston, are married and adopted one of
Girven’s children. L. Houston was fired in October 2013. She was
accused of using Girven’s food stamp card while Girven was incarcerated,
but her case was dismissed after her attorney successfully argued that
there wasn’t proof that she knew what she was doing was against the law.
In 2014, E. Houston lost his job while under investigation for his possible
involvement in tax refund fraud, though he wasn’t officially charged
with any crimes.
According to the indictment, Bright gave Girven information that she obtained
from law enforcement databases, knowing that Girven was using the private
information for identity theft and filing false federal income tax returns.
Florida has the highest per capita rate of ID theft complaints, according
to the Federal Trade Commission. In February, the
Miami Herald reported that the worst metro area is South Florida, with the ID-theft
rate nearly four times the national average.
Tax Refund Fraud: A Growing Problem
According to the
Miami Herald, all of the stolen IDs has sparked a surge in tax fraud. In 2010, IRS
criminal investigators along with local and federal authorities began
targeting tax fraud. Despite law enforcement’s efforts, the numbers
show that it remains a growing industry.
The IRS estimated that nationwide, the organization has received 5 million
returns using stolen identities, totaling nearly $30 billion in fraudulent
refund claims in 2013 alone, according to the latest data from the Government
Accountability Office report. Of that number, the agency estimates that
it paid 900,000 bad refunds, worth more than $5 billion, the
Miami Herald reported.
The GAO report cautioned that the full extent of
identity theft refund fraud is unknown.
If you are facing tax refund fraud or identify theft charges, contact a
Tampa white collar crime attorney from Thomas & Paulk, P.A. for immediate legal advice.