Florida is number one again. The state that holds the championship belt in oxycodone consumption now leads the U.S. in fraudulent tax returns filed from prison. Perhaps our prisoners are trying to emulate the leadership traits of Captain Medicaid Fraud, aka Gov. Rick Scott.
Florida inmates filed 8,777 phony claims for tax refunds in 2009, more than prisoners in California, Texas and New York combined. Inmates at South Bay Correctional facility in Palm Beach County submitted 213 bogus claims, boasting the second highest amount in Florida, according, a front-page story in today's Sun-Sentinel. Broward Correctional Institution kicked in 75, securing Florida's lead.
The scheme is actually a growing trend. Nationwide, the number of false tax returns filed by inmates more than doubled in the last five years, the Florida Times-Union reports. American inmates filed 44,944 false tax returns in 2009, totaling $295 million in claims. That dwarfs the 18,103 false claims for a total of $68 million filed five years earlier. The IRS has incorrectly issued $39 million in refund checks to inmates in 2009 and is attempting to recoup the money.
In 2008, a law was passed that allowed the IRS to share information with federal prisons and was amended last year to include state prisons. The IRS, however, has yet to enforce the amendment. That's because the IRS is afraid of getting sued, a spokesman for U.S. Senator Bill Nelson told reporters.
One Florida investigator said that no one had realized the prevalence of the scheme until they did some dogged research.
"When it all started, we thought we'd uncovered this unique and horrible scam just in our jail," the investigator told the Sun-Sentinel. "When you Googled it, you found out the same scam had been going on for 30 years."
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