WASHINGTON, October 1 (RIA Novosti) – Fifty-five people, many of them foreign nationals from the former Soviet bloc countries, have been indicted for allegedly participating in a massive $20 million fraud ring that targeted the US federal government and financial institutions, the US Attorney's Office in San Diego has announced.
During raids Thursday, hundreds of law enforcement officials arrested 22 suspects in San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Maryland. Thirty-three of those indicted are still at large, including 21 who are believed to be abroad, according to the US Attorney’s Office.
“This investigation involved multiple complex fraudulent schemes resulting in significant losses to financial institutions and American taxpayers,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Daphne Hearn.
The arrests “send a clear message” that “the FBI and our partners will aggressively pursue those involved in stealing precious taxpayer money through fraudulent schemes,” she added in a statement.
The biggest of the multiple schemes cited by prosecutors involves 29 defendants who allegedly filed tax returns claiming false gambling winnings and losses, and fabricated wages and withholdings.
The indictment indicates they sought $17 million in refunds from the US government.
The indicted individuals are believed to have belonged to Los Angeles-based criminal organizations that imported people into the United States on student visas and housed them in apartments in San Diego.
Participants in the scheme were recruited from Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and even as far afield as Turkmenistan.
The fraud ring is even said to have enlisted the dead in its schemes, using the names of deceased persons to assist in extracting $7 million in bogus refunds from the Internal Revenue Service.
The other cases involved identity theft, defendants who impersonated wealthy bank customers and some who wrote bad checks, the US Attorney’s Office said Thursday.