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7 Accused In Tax Return Theft Scam In New York, New Jersey

(Photo Credit: Thinkstock)

(Photo Credit: Thinkstock)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Seven people from New York and New Jersey stood accused this weekend of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax refund checks from the federal government.

As WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported, at a news conference Friday, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown stood before a big bag full of cash. He said it was from one of the suspects’ homes.

“Interesting to note that when you have cases involving money laundering that you find the money in the laundry bin with the dirty laundry,” he said.

He said the scammers used the IDs of real people in Puerto Rico, because they usually do not have to file tax returns, and probably would not notice if someone else did so and got their refund checks.

“The checks were then cashed at two New Jersey check cashing establishments, and they pocketed the money,” said Port Authority police Detective John Reilly.

The scam’s proceeds totaled more than $500,000. But Brown said that “is unfortunately the tip of the iceberg if you will.”

Charged in the case were Jose Mercedes, 44; his son, Jose A. Mercedes, 20; and his nephew, Stalin DeJesus, 30, who were arraigned Thursday in Queens, according to published reports. Four others – Srinivas Bikkasani, 52; Hilda Baide Villatoro, 46; Jeronimo Baide Pinto, 44; and Satya Garaga, 35, were being held in New Jersey, according to published reports.

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