Christmas may be “the most wonderful time of the year” for children. Many feel that tax season takes this crown, due to fat refund checks they get for their hard work. Tax season is also a time that scammers look forward to, as they look for vulnerable victims to finesse. Two North Carolina men–Wilfredo Acosta Hidalgo, 47, of Raleigh and Oscar Barahona Fiallos, 52, of Smithfield–fit this category. However, they won’t be enjoying the fruits of their pursuits. Both men are facing lengthy prison sentences after pleading guilty to hitting a lick on the government. Both case related, “in that the charges set forth in the criminal information arise out of the same conspiracy to defraud the United States,” according to court filings reported by Triangle Business Journal.
According to the Department of Justice, from 2011 to 2012, Hidalgo conspired with check cashers to cash U.S. Treasury checks, which resulted from fraudulently-filed income tax returns. According to the indictment, checks ranged from $4,000 to $8,000, in the name of third-party recipients living in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The check cashers allegedly deposited the checks into their business bank accounts, then gave Hidalgo an amount equal to the check in cash, minus the check cashing fee.
It appears that a check casher Hidalgo (and other co-conspirators) used was Fiallos, who owned and operated a tax preparation company in Smithfield, called El Caracol. In the same time period, he cashed large numbers of Treasury checks from fugazi filings with the IRS , in the names of third parties. He would deposit the checks in his bank account and give the value of the checks in cash to the co-conspirators. After the account was closed, he obtained a check cashing license, so he could keep the ball rolling. According to the DOJ, “He also prepared Individual Taxpayer Identification Number applications and false tax returns for third parties he did not meet and who did not sign the documents.”
Fiallos will face sentencing in June. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, after pleading guilty to one count of a dual object conspiracy to defraud the United States and commit theft of public money. Sentencing for Hidalgo has not been set yet, but he is facing five years for one count of conspiracy to commit theft of public money and ten years for one count of theft of public money. As part of their plea agreements, Fiallos must pay $2,802,496 in restitution and Hidalgo must pay $4,280,871.