Crime & Courts
Hillsborough judge twice a victim of tax fraud
Stolen identity tax refund fraud can happen to anyone.
Just ask Circuit Judge Robert Foster Jr.
It's happened to him. Twice.
Foster, who sits in the civil division in Hillsborough County, said he learned from his accountant last year that someone had filed a tax return in his name before he did.
When he was told, he said, his reaction was “unprintable.”
Thieves are stealing personal information and filing tax returns in the victims' names, filling in phony income information and having the IRS send them fraudulent “refunds.”
Tampa area criminals have stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from federal taxpayers this way, and nationwide, the thefts are in the billions.
The judge said his problems began when his accountant filed his tax return and the IRS blocked it.
“And then it begins,” Foster said. “You've got to take a copy of your tax return. You've got to go down and file a copy of your criminal report affidavit and then you've got to go to the IRS and wait there in line.”
Foster said he could never get through to the IRS on the telephone, so he went to the agency's building in Tampa at 8:30 one morning but had to leave after waiting two hours in a long line.
He went back at 6:30 a.m. another day and found himself No. 30 in line. IRS employees, he said, “were very gracious. They marshaled through a lot of people.”
After nine months of waiting, someone told him about the Taxpayer Advocate's office, which he said was “marvelous” and helped him get his refund in March, about 11 months after he first filed his tax return.
He thought everything was fixed, and then when he filed his tax return this year, as he said, “Whack!” he found out he'd been hit again.
This time, he said, he owed taxes, “so I wrote a check and for some reason, they haven't cashed it yet.”
Foster said he doesn't know where the thieves got his information, but believes it may have happened when he had surgery.
“It's a sense of violation is what it is,” he said. “Somebody's got my information. Somebody's out there saying they're me.”