Criminal Justice

Owners of mom-and-pop store take plea in $24M check-cashing case; tax refunds were key


A husband and wife who own a Florida convenience market have taken a plea concerning a $24-million check-cashing scheme in which federal tax refunds played a prominent role.

Mohammad Sultan and Ashrafunnahar Mohsin are accused by federal prosecutors of cashing more than $20 million in fraudulent checks in November 2012 alone, as a spreadsheet they kept helped confirm, reports the Orlando Sentinel. Another 185 checks totaling more than $1 million were found in a safe at their DJ’s Discount Market in Winter Park during a search in 2012 and court records say the owners told agents they were trying to avert suspicion by holding off on processing them.

Four individuals who face related charges allegedly brought some 2,000 third-party checks to the store. The owners admit in plea documents that they purchased checks for roughly half their face value, knowing the checks were fraudulent, and then deposited the proceeds into store accounts.

Originally charged with theft of government property, Sultan and Mohsin could get as much as 10 years when they are sentenced in the Orlando case, the newspaper says.

Special Agent James D. Robnett said the Internal Revenue Service “has made identity theft and refund fraud a top priority,” the Sentinel reports, and promised that “IRS Criminal Investigation, along with our law enforcement partners and the United States Attorney’s Office, will remain vigilant in identifying, investigating and prosecuting those individuals who participate in such schemes, from the individuals stealing the identities to those involved in preparing the fraudulent tax returns to the merchants helping to cash the stolen refund checks.”

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Amidst ‘epidemic’ of tax-refund claims using stolen IDs, feds charge 25 in $36M fraud”

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