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Sneaky Tax Theft Ring Busted Up

MANHATTAN (CN) - A man was sentenced on Thursday to 78 months in prison for stealing $807,000 by filing phony tax returns demanding refunds. Jose Franklin Duarte and his cohorts filed more than 9,000 bogus returns using Social Security numbers stolen from residents of Puerto Rico, demanding $91 million in refunds, federal prosecutors said.

They used Puerto Ricans numbers because most residents of the island are not required to file federal tax returns, so Duarte minimized the chances that a real return had been filed by a person with the same Social Security number he used.

Duarte recruited a mailman as a co-conspirator, to get him a safe address on his route, to which the phony returns could be mailed, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Duarte and his cohorts were arrested in February 2009 after law enforcement agents placed 'decoy' checks in the letter carrier's mail. By then, the ring had stolen more than $807,000 from phony returns for tax year 2008, prosecutors said.

Duarte also was ordered to pay back $807,000 to the IRS.

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