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Financial Crimes

Scam artist pleads guilty to using stolen identities, generated fraudulent tax returns

NEW YORK — A New York man pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of using stolen identities to generate fraudulent tax returns. The guilty plea is the result of an investigation U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Manhattan District Attorney's office

Petr Murmylyuk, 31, of Brooklyn, N.Y., pleaded guilty April 15, 2013, in Manhattan District Court to grand larceny and money laundering in the second degree. Sentencing is scheduled for May 6, 2013.

"Stolen identity refund fraud is a serious crime with serious consequences," said Andrew McLees, special agent in charge of HSI Newark, N.J. "HSI will continue to stop criminals, like Mr. Murmylyuk, who attempt to defraud the government."

"As professional as it is, the IRS cannot stop identity theft tax fraud by itself," said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. "This crime isn't just harming identity theft victims – it's costing taxpayers $5 billion each year. As today's conviction shows, my office's Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau has the expertise to bring these scammers to justice. We need a change in federal law so that we can do more. That's why I'm urging federal legislators to allow the IRS to share taxpayer information, so that we can prevent more identity thieves from ripping off taxpayers."

According to court documents, Murmylyuk created a fake employment-related website with the address www.jobcentral2.net. The site offered fictitious job placement services through a program it claimed was, "sponsored by the government and intended for people with low income." Murmylyuk sent e-mails with a link to his fake website through legitimate job search forums and college list servers. In the weeks that followed, hundreds of people visited his site and submitted personal identifying information.

Murmylyuk collected the information submitted to his website, and used it to forge tax returns in victims' names. Using an e-filing vendor, the defendant claimed fraudulent refunds ranging from approximately $3,500 to $6,500 each.

Murmylyuk successfully obtained refunds in the names of 108 of the approximately 300 different victims who had visited www.jobcentral2.net, yielding more than $450,000 in stolen taxpayer funds.

Murmylyuk recruited a group of students from Kazakhstan, many located on Russian-language social networking sites, to open accounts at banks across the country and provide their account numbers, online passwords and other data to Murmylyuk for use in the scheme.

Many of the students returned to Kazakhstan shortly after opening the accounts for Murmylyu. They have been charged in the indictment in absentia.