CHICAGO (CN) – A man who operated a $65.8 million fraudulent tax-refund scheme using more than 2,900 false identities while living in Israel will serve 18 years in federal prison.
Marvin Berkowitz pleaded guilty to directing a conspiracy to “file thousands of fraudulent state and federal income tax returns, using the names and social security numbers of federal inmates and deceased persons without their or their families’ knowledge or consent,” the Justice Department said.
Berkowitz’s scheme involved at least 58 individuals – some of whom were tricked into believing Berkowitz’s activities were legal -as well as 90 different addresses and 42 bank accounts.
Though he started the scheme in Chicago, Berkowitz fled to Israel in 2003 and continued the operation, filing the fraudulent returns that were then mailed to his co-conspirators in the United States for submission.
Berkowitz, his two sons, son-in-law and seven others were arrested by Israeli authorities in 2009. All of his family members pleaded guilty or were convicted of fraud.
The group obtained at least $3.7 million in refunds from the IRS, as well as $6.5 million from at least 33 states. The Internal Revenue Service froze an additional $50 million worth of claims.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall ordered $10 million in restitution to the IRS and various states, as well as a forfeiture of $5 million.