POSTED: 6:38 p.m. HST, Nov 15, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 10:21 a.m. HST, Nov 16, 2010
A man who used other people's identification and Social Security numbers obtained through his tax preparation service in California to collect fraudulent tax refunds from Hawaii and 23 other states is going to federal prison.
A federal judge sentenced Michael Stringer yesterday to eight years in prison for wire fraud and aggravated ID theft.
The judge also ordered Stringer to repay $1,072,977 in fraudulent tax refunds he collected from 2007 and 2009. The Hawaii portion of the restitution is $282,004, according to court records.
Authorities said Stringer used the money he stole to support his $1,500 per week gambling addiction. When investigators caught up with him last year, they recovered less than $10,000 of the stolen money.
According to an indictment, Stringer obtained the identities and Social Security numbers through his company taxbrain.com. He then used the information to electronically file false tax returns and had the money sent to his, his brother's and his uncle's bank accounts, authorities said.
"There was no breach of our security," said Craig Petz, a vice president with Petz Enterprises, the software company that writes and publishes the Taxbrain tax preparation program.
Petz said Stringer used the Taxbrain software, but was not an owner or employee of Petz Enterprises or taxbrain.com.
Petz said his company assisted in the investigation and Stringer did not access other customer information at taxbrain.com.