by Christopher Zoukis
Qadir Shabazz, aka Deangelo Moore, aka Deangelo Muhammad, a 41-year-old Atlanta man, was convicted in January 2016 of charges related to a fraudulent scheme that sold false hope to prisoners and stole millions from the U.S. government.
Shabazz opened a “charity” called Indigent Inmate in 2009, and he and his employees mailed brochures and applications to thousands of prisoners around the country. Shabazz claimed he would provide free religious literature, other publications and even financial assistance to prisoners in need.
“He promised he would send reading materials,” said U.S. Postal Inspector Nathaniel Sims. “He would put them in touch with people if they needed legal aide [sic], and he also promised that he might give them a small amount of money they could put on their prisoner accounts.”
All prisoners needed to do was fill out an application which required their name, date of birth and Social Security number. Requests for this type of information are the hallmark of identity theft operations, but it wasn’t so obvious in this case.
“There are actually legitimate prison charities that do offer that kind of assistance and do include on their application forms, [requests for] names and Social Security numbers,” Sims said. “So the prisoners – they were not alarmed when they were asked to provide this information.”
But instead of providing help, Shabazz filed for approximately $12 million in fraudulent federal income tax refunds. Between November 2009 and May 2012, he submitted over 2,000 tax returns using the personal information he obtained from prisoners who had responded to his brochures.
If it wasn’t for an alert mailman who noticed multiple tax refund checks arriving at Shabazz’s residence under different names, the scam could still be ongoing.
Shabazz was indicted by a federal grand jury in November 2013 and found guilty of 33 counts of wire fraud, identity theft and defrauding the IRS in January 2016. Each wire fraud count carried a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The government also moved for forfeiture of all funds derived from the scheme.
On January 5, 2017, Shabazz was sentenced to 277 months in federal prison plus five years of supervised release, and payment of $1,680,299 in restitution to the IRS.
“Shabazz preyed upon prisoners that he promised to help, all in an effort to steal millions from the government,” U.S. Attorney John Horn said in a statement. “He thought he could go undetected by using the identities of prisoners, who would not notice tax irregularities, with no regard for the false hope he created for them through his bogus charity. Shabazz will now have an opportunity to better understand the situation of the prisoners he victimized.”
There is a lesson to be learned here: Do not give your name, date of birth and Social Security number to anyone who solicits you through the mail. Prisoners cannot easily verify the legitimacy of a charity or business, so the best practice is to err on the side of caution. And if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably isn’t true.
Sources: www.justice.gov, www.bizjournals.com, http://news3lv.com
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