Posted on June 26th, 2013 No comments
After stealing the identities of several South Floridians — including a former owner of the New York Mets — Jeffrey Emil Groover made it seem like he was truly sorry for his crimes.
He even testified to a U.S. Senate committee while he was serving a federal prison term in 2004 and offered some helpful suggestions to lawmakers about how to stop people like him from victimizing others.
But on Thursday, Groover admitted that he again used other people’s identities to steal money by claiming the victims had signed over checks to him for pre-paid pest extermination and disinfection services.
Groover, 52, who recently was listed at addresses in West Palm Beach and in Broward County, had no comment after the brief hearing in federal court in Fort Lauderdale. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines when he is sentenced in August.
Records show he was released from federal prison in 2006 after serving a four-year term for credit card fraud that involved stealing the identities of several people, including Nelson Doubleday, the wealthy Jupiter Island resident who formerly co-owned the Mets.
Groover went on a yearlong spending spree at the time on lines of credit he obtained under other people’s names. Doubleday tipped off authorities, and when they investigated further, they found Groover also had used Palm Beach philanthropist Donald Burns’ identity to buy a BMW, a Rolex watch and rare coins, according to court records.
Groover also was ordered to pay more than $270,000 in restitution.
While Groover was serving his prison term for those offenses, he addressed the U.S. Senate’s Special Committee on Aging in March 2004, telling senators that he had used the internet to obtain personal information about wealthy targets, open credit card accounts and even tap into his victims’ bank accounts.
“I came here to assist my country, and in some small way to find redemption for what I’ve done,” Groover testified to the committee. “I lost my home, my business, my freedom and most of all my wife and children for what I did. The punishment is severe, and rest assured that I will not do it again. However, that will not stop other people from continuing to do this type of crime due to the ease in which it can be done.”
He went on to outline his suggestions for curtailing such opportunities and apologized to his victims. He blamed the failure of a small internet service provider that he owned in the late 1990s for putting him in financial difficulty and said he resorted to fraud to keep his business going and support his family.
Groover’s more recent crimes came to light when a check-processing service noticed and reported suspicious activity in a merchant account he opened in March 2012. According to court records, Groover had set up a West Palm Beach-based corporation called Affordable Pest Protection Inc., which IRS criminal investigators and federal prosecutors said “purported to be a provider of pest extermination and disinfection services.”
Analysts at the check-processing service became suspicious of Groover’s transactions within days of him opening the account and they notified authorities. Groover had attempted to cash several U.S. Treasury tax refund checks, records show.
When the company asked him to explain the activity, Groover told them he had met with each of the people named on the tax refund checks and they had agreed to turn the proceeds of those checks over to his business.
“Groover further explained that he was trying to mimic automobile dealerships’ promotions by allowing clients to bring him their tax refund checks and apply the refund amounts to pre-paid pest control services,” agents wrote.
When agents tracked down the people identified on the checks, they found that none of them had filed the income tax returns or authorized anyone to use their information.
One of the victims was a man who had died in Broward County in April 2008, and other victims included an Oregon man and women from Tampa and Michigan, according to the criminal complaint.
Groover pleaded guilty Thursday to four counts of making and presenting false claims to the IRS. He reached a plea agreement after learning prosecutors planned to file more charges, including several counts of aggravated identity theft, against him, according to court filings.
Groover admitted he had targeted more than 10 victims and the intended loss was between $200,000 and $400,000, U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenbaum said in court.