African Press International (API)

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Kenyan Woman pleads guilty in identity theft scheme.

Posted by African Press International on June 28, 2008

Loretta Wavinya pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday for her role in an identity-theft scheme that sought more than $15 million in illegal tax refunds.
Wavinya, 31, from Kenya, said she stole the identities of nursing home residents and filed false tax returns in their names.
The Kenyan residing in Kansas City, Mo., pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge John T. Maughmer to the charges contained in a July 18, 2007, federal indictment.
According to court records, Wavinya worked for five months beginning in November 2002 as an H&R Block tax preparer and after that prepared returns privately. In early 2005, she and others harvested personal data from residents of at least a dozen local nursing homes and assisted-care centers, according to court records. She then prepared false federal and state tax returns.
The conspirators also filed false tax returns in 27 states, using the stolen identities of more than 300 people, most from the Kansas City area, officials said.

Related story
17 Indicted In Identity Theft Case
July 19, 2007
KANSAS CITY, Mo.A federal grand jury has indicted 17 people for allegedly using the identities of Kansas City-area nursing home residents to file bogus tax returns across the country.
They allegedly sought $13.1 million in refunds.
In an indictment returned Wednesday and unsealed Thursday, prosecutors charge the defendants with stealing the personal information of around 300 individuals and using it to file at least 365 fraudulent federal tax returns since February 2005.
U.S. Attorney John Wood told reporters the conspirators also filed fraudulent tax returns in 27 states.
Wood said some of the refunds paid to the defendants were cashed and transferred to the African nation of Kenya, where 12 were either born or held citizenship.
“We’re seeing identity thieves using more complex and sophisticated methods to commit their crimes than ever before,” Wood said.
The indictment names as defendants Loretta Wavinya, 30; Ervin Somba, 26; Edwin Nyumu Sila, 25; Lillian Nzongi, 26; Moses Ndubai, 33; Bernard Nyemba, 39; Jeanette Alexander, 38; Michael Anderson, 46; Rashira Lewis, 20; and Parker S. Willingham, 23, all of Kansas City; Vincent Niagwara Ogega, 23, of Independence; Aaron Mutavi, 28, of Overland Park, Kan.; Kenneth Njagi, 31, of Lenexa, Kan.; Mary Githia, 25, of San Francisco; Ernest Kangara, 40, of Santa Rosa, Calif.; Paul Kilungya Nyumu, 41, address unknown; and Karingithi Kamau, age and address unknown.
Prosecutors said 10 of the defendants are in custody and being held pending a hearing, three are believed to be living in Kenya and four are unaccounted for. Wood said his office is working with officials in Kenya to try to find the defendants there.
According to the indictment, Wavinya and seven other defendants worked in Kansas City-area nursing homes and hospitals and had access to patient information.
“Frankly, it’s not hard to get identity information in an institutional situation,” said assistant U.S. Attorney J. Kurt Bohling. “On the charts, the patients’ names and Social Security numbers are right on it.”
The indictment claims Wavinya, who worked as a tax preparer at H&R Block Inc. in late 2002 and early 2003, and others prepared and filed false tax returns under the victims’ names, listing jobs and income the victims had never had and claiming thousands of dollars in tax refunds. The returns were filed electronically, sometimes using public Internet portals, such as those in coffee shops, or by piggybacking on someone else’s wireless Internet signal.
The refunds were deposited in bank accounts allegedly opened by the defendants, who then used a series of “runners” to withdraw the money in increments less than $10,000 each in an attempt to avoid federal scrutiny, the indictment claims. In some cases, Wood said, bank officials or the IRS grew suspicious and froze the accounts.
Some of the money was wired to banks in Kenya or withdrawn through ATM machines there. In other cases, the refunds were electronically deposited on prepaid debit-style cards obtained anonymously over the Internet.
Besides the overall conspiracy charge, the indictment charges 14 of the defendants with wire fraud, charges Wavinya with two counts of aggravated identity theft and charges Nzongi with money laundering.
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API

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