By Brendan Kirby
MOBILE, Alabama (WALA) — A Washington County resident forked over $19,000 after getting tricked by a con artist posing as an IRS agent, according to federal prosecutors.
An indictment handed up by a federal grand jury alleges that a man believed to be India, identified as “Iam Bishop,” or perhaps Mihir Jain, contacted the victim in March 2018 and demanded payment of back taxes
Prosecutors allege that the victim, identified in the indictment by the initials C.E.N., wired $8,120 to Trevizo’s bank account and later sent an additional $11,023 to pay a lawyer to cancel an arrest warrant. Trevizo pleaded not guilty this week to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to launder wire fraud proceeds.
A judge set jury selection for Nov. 28. If convicted, Tevizo faces maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, although the actual punishment likely would be less under advisory sentencing guidelines.
Federal Defender Carlos Williams said Trevizo did not pose as an IRS agent.
“My client did not pose as anybody. … She does not even know the other person,” he said. “Somebody made her a proposal online.”
The wire fraud charges stem from the two transfers that the Washington County resident made to Trevizo’s bank account, according to the indictment. The money laundering conspiracy charge relates to financial transactions that prosecutors contend were designed in whole or in part to conceal the nature, location and control of proceeds of unlawful activity.
The type of scam alleged in the indictment is one of a number of cases worked by IRS criminal investigators. In fiscal year 2021, the agency identified $10 billion in tax and financial crimes. That includes everything from scammers posing as IRS agents to people filing fraudulent returns.
Lisa Fontanette, the assistant special agent in charge of the IRS office that covers Alabama and Georgia, said people should know that the only way the agency communicates with taxpayers is through the mail.
“We do not send them emails,” she told FOX10 News. “We do not call them on the phone. We do not threaten them that we’re coming to pick you up to take you to jail if you’re not paying. And also, we also tell people the IRS is never going to ask for payment through gift card or cryptocurrency.”
Fontanette said it is wrong to assume that everybody is sophisticated enough to avoid becoming victims.
People do fall for them,” she said. “And there has been an uptick in these scams over the last couple of years. And the best line of defense are the taxpayers, the front line, just knowing that IRS will never communicate with you by calling you on the telephone, or sending you an email or a text.”
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