Inmates Charged in Tax Fraud

TORONTO, Jan. 15 /CNW/ - Today, four individuals appeared before a judge at Old City Hall courthouse following a tax fraud and identity theft investigation by the RCMP GTA Commercial Crime Section and the Canada Revenue Agency. In response to concerns raised in early 2009 by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), a criminal investigation was undertaken in collaboration with RCMP, CRA, and the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

Investigators found irregularities with over 2000 tax filings covering tax years 1999 - 2007. These returns were virtually all filed using some 300 different personal and business identities associated to current and former inmates of correctional facilities. Over $ 2Million in GST rebates and other tax credits were sought with more than 95% being thwarted by CRA's robust audit protocols.

Charged with one count of attempted fraud in relation to income tax and one count of fraud over $5,000 in relation to GST are; Mark Johnston (age 44), Michael Bannon (age 27), Laurie Johnston (age 47) and Debbie Deluca (age 31) of Toronto, Ontario.

Mark Johnston and Michael Bannon, who are currently serving jail sentences, are alleged to have misappropriated biographical information from fellow inmates to further the tax fraud scheme. Laurie Johnston and Debbie Deluca, are alleged to have provided necessary 'outside' assistance to convert the ill-gotten government cheques. All of the known inmate identities have been flagged by authorities for particular scrutiny and officials are engaged in ongoing discussions with the victims of identity theft to help protect them from further misuse.

Identity theft and related crime has become a significant challenge for law enforcement globally. Police remind everyone to safeguard their biographical, financial, and other personal information from those who would profit from it.

"This investigation represents the commitment of the RCMP to working together with its partners to preserve the integrity of government programs, and the economy as a whole. Fraud relating to identify theft continues to be a concern. This investigation, once again highlights the need to always safeguard your personal information" stated Inspector Dave Bellamy who is the Officer in Charge of the RCMP Commercial Crime Section in Toronto. "We would like to remind everyone, and emphasize that a few simple measures can go a long way to reduce the risk of identity theft and fraud".

These measures include the following recommendations;

    -   sign all credit cards when you receive them
    -   never loan your credit cards to anyone
    -   cancel credit cards you do not use and keep track of the ones you use
    -   immediately report lost or stolen credit cards and any discrepancies
        in your monthly statements to the issuing credit card company
    -   never leave receipts at bank machines, bank wickets, in trash cans,
        or at unattended gasoline pumps; ensure you destroy paperwork you no
        longer need
    -   never provide personal information such as SIN, date of birth, credit
        card numbers, or PIN over the telephone unless you initiate the call
    -   promptly remove mail from your secure mailbox after delivery and do
        not leave pieces of mail lying around your residence or work site
    -   destroy (ie shred completely) pre-approved credit card applications,
        credit card receipts, bills and related information when they are no
        longer needed
    -   avoid keeping a written record of your bank PIN number(s), social
        insurance number and computer passwords, and never keep this
        information in your wallet or hand bag
    -   change your PIN number on a regular basis
    -   avoid mail or telephone solicitations disguised as promotions or
        surveys offering instant prizes or awards designed for the purpose of
        obtaining your personal details including credit card numbers

SOURCE Royal Canadian Mounted Police

For further information: For further information: Sgt. Marc LaPorte, Media Relations, RCMP "O" Division, Office: (519) 640-7302, Cell: (416) 992-4409

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