Friday, July 16, 2021

Indictment Charges 4 Ecuadoran Nationals for Participating in Tax Refund Fraud Scheme

 Leonard C Boyle, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut; Ramsey E. Covington, Acting Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation in New England; Matthew B. Millhollin, Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Boston; and Joshua W. McCallister, Acting Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Boston Division, today announced that four Ecuadoran nationals living in Connecticut were arrested today on federal charges stemming from their alleged participation in a tax refund fraud scheme.

On July 6, 2021, a grand jury in Hartford returned a five-count indictment charging OLGA AUCAPINA, a.k.a. Olga Aucapina Paredes, 51, last residing in Woodbridge; DIEGO AUCAPINA, a.k.a. Diego Aucapina Paredes, 33, last residing in Woodbridge; JAIRO SANTIAGO SARANGO SOLANO, a.k.a. Jairo Santiago Sarango, 33, last residing in Hamden; and EDWIN F. GUTIERREZ, 43, last residing in East Haven.  The indictment was unsealed after the defendants were arrested this morning.

As alleged in the indictment, from approximately May 2013 to April 2017, the four defendants conspired to file fraudulent federal tax returns, in the names of other foreign nationals (“claimants”), with the IRS in order to illegally obtain tax refunds.  The fraudulent tax returns stated that the claimants resided in the U.S., earned wages from companies in the U.S., and had federal income tax withheld from the claimants’ wages.  In truth, the claimants never worked for or earned income from those companies.  In addition, U.S. Customs and Border Protection have no records of the claimants even being present in the U.S. during the tax years for which the returns were filed.  Based on these false tax returns, the IRS issued tax refunds, which were then deposited into bank accounts that were controlled by some of the defendants.

It is further alleged that the IRS received at least 34 false tax returns for the 2012 through 2016 tax years, resulting in illegally obtained tax refunds in excess of $103,000.  The defendants spent some of the proceeds for their personal use, and they wired some of the proceeds to relatives in Ecuador.

The indictment charges all four defendants with one count of conspiracy to commit theft of public money, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years; one count of conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to claims, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years; and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.  In addition, the indictment charges Olga Aucapina and Gutierrez with one count of theft of public money, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years.

Acting U.S. Attorney Boyle stressed that an indictment is not evidence of guilt.  Charges are only allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This matter is being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, with the assistance of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Enforcement and Removal Operations and the East Haven, Hamden, New Haven, Woodbridge and Wilton Police Departments.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Neeraj N. Patel.

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