Change after $9 million tax fraud case in Tampa - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Change after $9 million tax fraud case in Tampa

Posted: Updated:
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

Federal agents are calling a Tampa car dealer one of the biggest tax fraud players in the Tampa Bay area.

Russell Simmons was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in federal prison last month.

Authorities say he used stolen identities to file fake tax returns worth nearly $9 million, and succeeded in getting $3.4 million. At his home and business, investigators seized cash, jewelry and debit cards loaded with refund money in other people's names.

All that spending was a clue for investigators.

"He was living way above his means," said John Joyce, special agent in charge of the Secret Service Tampa field office. "There was a steady flow of cash coming in and out of his bank accounts."

But the Simmons case, which dates back to 2011, didn't move as quickly as some in investigators would have liked. The case was even held up by local police as an example of problems with the way tax fraud investigations progressed.

Ultimately, the government did lose more money that it had to while the investigation played out, Joyce said.

"I would say, looking back, the quicker you can stem the flow of money draining from the government the quicker you can fix the problem, and that wasn't the case here," Joyce said.

Joyce, local investigators and the IRS all say things have changed since then. Both policies and relationships have evolved to allow more communication and cooperation between the IRS and local law enforcement. The IRS also deputized several dozen officers and deputies in the Bay area.

"We're talking daily," said Jim Robnett, IRS special agent in charge of criminal investigations at the Tampa field office.

Where cases like Simmons and other tax fraud suspects are concerned, there is also an information flow to Washington, where the civil side of the IRS is trying to stop the flow of refund money to those who don't deserve it with new filters to catch fraudulent returns.

"I will tell you that the intelligence that we learn here on our criminal cases – it finds its way to the larger IRS," Robnett said. "And we are taking measures today to close those windows, shut those doors."

  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • Glitch crashes global US passport, visa operations

    Glitch crashes global US passport, visa operations

    Thursday, July 24 2014 12:34 PM EDT2014-07-24 16:34:46 GMT
    The State Department's global database for issuing travel documents has crashed, resulting in major delays for potentially millions of people around the world waiting for U.S. passports and visas, officials said Wednesday.
    The State Department's global database for issuing travel documents has crashed, resulting in major delays for potentially millions of people around the world waiting for U.S. passports and visas, officials said Wednesday.
  • Apple users get strange emails with old dates

    Apple users get strange emails with old dates

    Thursday, July 24 2014 6:53 AM EDT2014-07-24 10:53:01 GMT
    If you got an email dated in the 60s, you would probably assume it's a scam.
    If you got an email dated in the 60s, you would probably assume it's a scam.
  • Pinellas homeowner ends up the loser after local government mistake on property taxes

    Pinellas homeowner ends up the loser after local government mistake on property taxes

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 5:59 PM EDT2014-07-22 21:59:58 GMT
    This Preservation land is at heart of homeowner tax dispute in PinellasThis Preservation land is at heart of homeowner tax dispute in Pinellas
    Melanie and Jeffrey Cornwell should have been getting a tax break for years on part of the homestead property in Dunedin they call their "little piece of Heaven." But due to a mistake at the Pinellas Property Appraiser's Office, they won't see any rebates for previous taxes, just a break on future tax bills.
    Melanie and Jeffrey Cornwell should have been getting a tax break for years on part of the homestead property in Dunedin they call their "little piece of Heaven." But due to a mistake at the Pinellas Property Appraiser's Office, they won't see any rebates for previous taxes, just a break on future tax bills.
  • NewsMore>>

  • St. Pete police release wrong ID arrested in drug bust

    St. Pete police release wrong ID arrested in drug bust

    Thursday, July 24 2014 2:18 PM EDT2014-07-24 18:18:58 GMT
    Photos of those arrested during drug investigation in St. Petersburg, including the mistaken ID.Photos of those arrested during drug investigation in St. Petersburg, including the mistaken ID.
    At a press conference on Wednesday, St. Petersburg Police released the picture of a man they said was arrested during a drug investigation. But, they got it wrong.
    At a press conference on Wednesday, St. Petersburg Police released the picture of a man they said was arrested during a drug investigation. But, they got it wrong.
  • VIDEO: Intense gator battle at Odessa golf course

    VIDEO: Intense gator battle at Odessa golf course

    Thursday, July 24 2014 1:47 PM EDT2014-07-24 17:47:49 GMT
    An amazing video of two big gators locked in an intense fight might have you wondering how something so dangerous could happen at a golf course. A golfer shot the video using a cell phone
    An amazing video of two big gators locked in an intense fight might have you wondering how something so dangerous could happen at a golf course. A golfer shot the video using a cell phone
  • One struck by lightning in Clearwater

    One struck by lightning in Clearwater

    Thursday, July 24 2014 1:47 PM EDT2014-07-24 17:47:12 GMT
    One person has been struck by lightning at Sand Key Park in Clearwater.
    One person has been struck by lightning at Sand Key Park in Clearwater.
  • Floydfest attracts people from all walks of life

    Floydfest attracts people from all walks of life

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 11:26 PM EDT2014-07-24 03:26:58 GMT
    FloydFest 13 kicked off on Wednesday. Thousands of people from different walks of life will attend various events. Some come to the music festival to escape the monotony of everyday living."
    FloydFest 13 kicked off on Wednesday. Thousands of people from different walks of life will attend various events. Some come to the music festival to escape the monotony of everyday living."

  • House, Senate chairs offer competing bill on VA

    House, Senate chairs offer competing bill on VA

    Thursday, July 24 2014 2:42 PM EDT2014-07-24 18:42:29 GMT
    With Congress scheduled to recess in a week, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee's chairman is offering to scale back a Senate-passed bill to improve health care services for veterans.
    With Congress scheduled to recess in a week, the chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees offered competing new proposals Thursday to fix a veterans health care program scandalized by long waits and...
  • As Iraq gets new president, car bomb kills 21

    As Iraq gets new president, car bomb kills 21

    Thursday, July 24 2014 1:49 PM EDT2014-07-24 17:49:38 GMT
    Iraqi officials say militants have attacked a prisoner convoy north of Baghdad, killing 52 prisoners and eight soldiers.
    Iraqi officials say a double car bombing in central Baghdad has killed 21 people and wounded 33, hours after lawmakers elected the country's new president.
Powered by WorldNow

WSLS 10, P.O. Box 10
Roanoke, VA 24022-0010

Telephone: 540.981.9110
Fax: 540.343.3157
Email: news@wsls.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.