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Postal employee to plead guilty to stealing tax refund checks from the mail

— A local postal employee on Thursday agreed to plead guilty to federal charges he stole tax refund checks from the mail.

Luis Angel Gonzalez, 48, of Land O’ Lakes, worked at the Tampa Processing and Distribution Center on Bessie Coleman Boulevard, according to his plea agreement, which says he “was involved” with someone who committed stolen identity refund fraud.

In that fraud, thieves use stolen personal information, such as Social Security numbers and birth dates, to file bogus tax returns to trick the federal government into sending them fraudulent “refunds.”

Gonzalez stole refund checks from mail trays, including some from a collection that had been set aside for investigation by postal inspectors. Postal inspectors in Tampa have prevented hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent refund checks from reaching criminals.

According to the plea agreement, Gonzalez communicated with his cohort through coded text messages in which he referred to the checks as Busch Gardens tickets.

“I have 2 busch tickets,” he says in one text listed in the plea agreement. In that conversation, Gonzalez relates that he has two refund checks in the same person’s name for different years. One check is for $2,000 and the other for $2,700.

Between July 6, 2014, and July 22, 2014, Gonzalez took five tax refund treasury checks and one cashier’s check, his plea agreement states. The checks were later cashed by someone whose name wasn’t on them, according to the plea agreement.

Under the agreement, Gonzalez agrees to plead guilty to a charge of mail theft, which carries up to five years in federal prison.

Postal Service spokeswoman Enola Rice said Gonzalez worked as a building equipment mechanic since November 2005. He resigned last November.

“The Postal Service employs over 600,000 dedicated men and women who focus on providing exceptional customer service,” Rice said.

esilvestrini@tampatrib.com

813-259-7837

Twitter: @ElaineTBO

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