Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York; George Venizelos, the Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); and Toni Weirauch, the Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), today announced the arrest of Melanie Ferreira for engaging in a series of frauds, which included cheating the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of nearly half-a-million dollars and perpetrating a bank fraud scheme. Ferreira was arrested by FBI and IRS agents this morning at her residence in Dutchess County, New York, and was presented this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa M. Smith in White Plains federal court.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, “As alleged, Melanie Ferreira thumbed her nose at the IRS, stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in refunds to which she was not entitled, and forged a check to satisfy a debt. We enjoy many rights and privileges in this country but not among them is the right to enjoy the fruits of law-abiding taxpayers’ money while evading the tax laws and defrauding the government and thereby your fellow citizens.”
FBI Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos said, “As alleged, the defendant committed tax fraud that was as unsophisticated as it was audacious. She simply lied about the amount of taxes already paid in 2008. The method of Ferreira’s alleged bank fraud may be tied to her questioning the legitimacy of the government. Regardless, she apparently had no qualms stealing from the treasury.”
IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge Toni Weirauch said, “The privilege of living in the United States carries certain responsibilities, one of which is that one must pay his or her fair share of taxes. Filing a false claim with the IRS is stealing, not only from the U.S. Treasury, but from all law-abiding taxpayers. Whether through claiming fictitious deductions, exemptions or withholding amounts, the charge is serious, and so are the consequences.”
According to the allegations in the complaint unsealed today in White Plains federal court:
On October 15, 2009, Ferreira filed a U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, Form 1040, for the year 2008 (“2008 return”). In her 2008 return, she falsely reported interest income of $661,600 from three different banks. She then falsely claimed that she had paid taxes in the amount of $661,536 to the IRS for tax year 2008. On that basis, she claimed a refund of $440,924. In reality, she actually earned only $17 in interest income from those three banks. Furthermore, contrary to her claim on her 2008 return that she had already paid $661,536 in federal taxes, she actually paid only $236.
On October 23, 2009, the IRS wired $440,924 to Ferreira’s bank account.
The following spring, on April 15, 2010, Ferreira tried to carry out the same type of scheme when she filed her Form 1040 for the year 2009, but this time, the IRS rejected her refund request.
In addition, Ferreira also perpetrated a bank fraud scheme against the Bank of America (BOA), which was the bank that held the mortgage for her house in Dutchess County, New York (“house 1”). In May 2010, she caused a forged cashier’s check for $316,966.05, purporting to be drawn on the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Ohio (“check 1”), to be sent to BOA in satisfaction of the mortgage on house 1. Believing that check 1 was legitimate, BOA filed a satisfaction of mortgage with the Dutchess County Clerk’s Office. BOA subsequently determined that check 1 was fraudulent and filed suit in New York State Supreme Court in order to have the mortgage reinstated.
Similarly, on June 2, 2012, Ferreira sent a check in the amount of $305,000 (“check 2”) to BOA, purporting to pay off the balance of her mortgage from BOA on house 1. When BOA tried to negotiate check 2, it was returned since the originating bank account had been closed. On the memo line of check 2, Ferreira wrote, in red ink, “For discharge of debit EFT only.” On the back of the check, she wrote several lines in a different color of ink, including the following: “Not for deposit; EFT only; discharge of debt.”
Ferreira’s scheme—sometimes known as an electronic funds transfer or EFT scheme—is a scheme often used by adherents to the Sovereign Citizens Movement, a group composed of individuals who, although they reside in the United States, assert the position that they do not have to answer to any government authority, including courts, taxing entities, motor vehicle departments, or law enforcement.