Posted on December 20th, 2013 No comments
A Broward County man accused of scheming in Key West to cash tens of thousands in fraudulent tax return checks has been arrested by undercover FBI agents, and is being detained on $250,000 bail.
Federal court records state Victor Martinez Pantoja met with undercover operatives in two separate incidents in November. He gave them U.S. Treasury checks and fake driver’s licenses and Social Security cards in order to cash the bad checks.
Pantoja was charged on suspicion of aggravated identity theft and theft of government property or money. As of Wednesday, he had not been indicted by a federal grand jury.
In the first meeting on Nov. 21 at the Marriott Courtyard hotel, 3031-41 N. Roosevelt Blvd., Pantoja told the undercover agents he and a co-conspirator had obtained the fraudulent checks by filing false tax returns using identities of people who died in 2012, according to federal court records. The FBI alleges that Pantoja got those identities from the Internet, but the five-page complaint filed in court doesn’t state how or where Pantoja might have found that information online.
“Pantoja further told the [undercover agents] that he made the driver licenses and Social Security cards on his computer and he agreed to produce counterfeit driver licenses and Social Security cards for the [agents],” the complaint states.
He allegedly negotiated a deal with the undercover FBI agents to cash three U.S. Treasury checks worth a combined $27,263 and give him $20,500 of that. The rest they were to keep as part of the scheme.
“Pantoja endorsed the back of each Treasury check by forging the names listed on the front of each Treasury check,” the complaint states.
He also agreed at that meeting to bring more checks, worth about $100,000, back to Key West for another meeting with the agents on Nov. 26, records say.
The undercover agents met with Pantoja on that date in Davie and recorded the meeting using audio and video equipment. Pantoja can be seen and heard giving them six checks worth a combined $35,547 before being arrested, according to court records.
He has a detainment hearing scheduled in Fort Lauderdale. His arraignment was set also in Fort Lauderdale.
Pantoja has been tentatively assigned a federal public defender.
Posted on November 26th, 2012 No comments
No one is immune from identity theft, regardless of how careful you are. Depending on your habits, affiliations and activities, these variables may be a significant factor in the manner in which you might become an identity theft victim.
The Internet can serve a very useful purpose and keeps us informed about this crime and its trends. At the same time, it can be a trap, so if you receive electronic or junk mail luring you with enticements, you should know to immediately delete, trash or shred.
Here are some examples of electronic, paper and phone enticements you should be very careful of:
- We’ll remove the virus we found for $100. These are typically bogus tech-support scams. Of course, there is no virus, so you pay for an unnecessary service. The crook may also take the opportunity to install mock antivirus software that later starts “finding” nonexistent malware. That can cost you a bundle for removal. You also may have provided a credit card number to someone you will wish you hadn’t.
- Confirm the flight reservation you didn’t make. These are phishing and malware scams. If you follow the instructions, you might end up downloading malware designed to take control of your computer and turn it into a spamming robot, harm it with a virus, or mine your files for financial information.
- You’ve just won a $100 gift card! Burglary. Someone claiming to be from a local store calls to tell you that you’ve just won the prized plastic, and you must come and pick it up. The game: get you out of the house, allowing thieves to break-in, grab up information they can use time and time again.
- Now you really can see who views your Facebook profile! Social media sites. They’ve long since become fertile ground for fakery. In the scam, targeted victims receive a link that drives the curious to a fake Facebook website, then asked to “like” the app or other bait, which forwards spam to other “friends,” all of whom are asked to complete a survey, collecting opinions and personal information.
- Cut your credit-card interest rate to 4.75 percent. A lower rate? Sounds great. The service costs $695 up front, and you must fill out a “financial profile form,” detailing debts, balances, credit limits, interest rates, plus your name, address and of course your Social Security number. I suspect you know what to do if you get this call.
- Want a $17.50-an-hour- job? An identity theft scam. When applicants (who became victims), went to a library (not in Naples) to fill out applications with their name, date of birth, Social Security number and more at the request of a person claiming to be a recruiter — and then later went to the store that was allegedly hiring for training — they learned that the recruiter wasn’t associated with the store at all. Know this, job-seekers: face-to-face job interviews are a new brazen way to extract information for ID theft.
- And as the holiday shopping season approaches, watch out for this one, under the very good impersonation of a credit card company or store you frequent. “We’d like to encourage each of you, our valued members, to be watching your email for a very special Member Referral Program from us that will enable you to earn extra holiday cash!” Be on the lookout for this email! If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Contributing information source: ConsumerReports.org.