A DARBY tax preparer has been charged with stealing the identities of foster children to falsely use their information on tax returns for his own benefit, according to an indictment unsealed yesterday.
Momolu Sirleaf, 34, of Wycombe Avenue, owned and operated I.E.S. Tax Services, of Darby.
According to the indictment:
Sirleaf obtained the names and Social Security numbers of kids in the foster-care system. He used their information to falsely add them as dependents on some of his clients' returns "to generate fraudulent refunds, some in excess of $8,000." He charged clients an extra fee of up to about $800 to falsely include these dependents on the tax returns.
He allegedly did this on returns filed from 2010 to 2012 for the previous tax years.
Sirleaf was arrested yesterday and was in court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Rice for his initial appearance.
He told Rice that he is now unemployed, and was appointed a lawyer. He will be arraigned next Thursday.
Sirleaf declined to speak to a reporter.
He was indicted last month and charged with aiding in the preparation of false income-tax returns, fraud and identity theft.
U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger and Special Agent-in-Charge Akeia Conner of the IRS' Criminal Investigation Division had harsh words for Sirleaf and for the defendants in the unrelated Medmans Financial Services case announced yesterday.
"The allegations in these indictments depict a disturbing practice of exploiting some of the most vulnerable members of our community," Memeger said in a statement. "Unfortunately, it is not unusual for criminals to injure victims through identity fraud and cheat the government of its tax revenue through tax fraud.
"But the conduct in these cases, in which the fraud schemes involved stealing identity information from disabled children and children in foster care, is truly despicable, and those who are responsible must be brought to justice," Memeger said.
Conner added in the statement: "Individuals who commit refund fraud and identity theft of this magnitude deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. [Yesterday's] arrests should serve as a strong warning to those who are considering similar conduct."