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Friday, May 25, 2018
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Tampa woman sentenced to 12 years in identity theft case

A Tampa woman was sentenced Wednesday to more than a decade in federal prison for defrauding banks and individuals dozens of times over two years.

Latasha Callens, 35, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew to 12 years and five months, followed by five years of supervised release, for bank fraud, access device fraud, mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft, according to a release from U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III. The court also ordered Callens to return $223,798, the proceeds from her scheme. Callens pleaded guilty on Dec. 3.

According to court documents and statements in court, Callens committed crimes from at least as early as July 2011 through her arrest in May 2013, the release said. Callens defrauded banks and individuals on at least 58 occasions during a two-year period.

In one of her schemes, Callens approached individuals, usually at ATMs, and told them about her need to cash a check and her inability to deposit the check into her bank account, according to the release. She then convinced the individuals to deposit the checks into their accounts and withdraw the funds for her. She sometimes gave them $100 for their trouble. In each case, the checks were worthless and were generally drawn on closed accounts, because the checks and checkbooks had been stolen.

On two occasions in December 2012, Callens committed access device fraud, the release said. She used a stolen identity to obtain care at a Clearwater dental office. She purchased $12,000 worth of services under the false pretense that a co-conspirator would consent to pay for the treatment. Using a stolen credit card number provided by the co-conspirator, Callens paid for a root canal, bridge, extraction, temporary crown, retainer, anesthesia, and other items and services.

In another case, Callens committed stolen identity refund fraud, according to the release. For tax years 2010, 2011, and 2012, she defrauded the Internal Revenue Service and certain taxpayers by electronically filing false and fraudulent tax returns, using stolen identities and obtaining their refunds. She sought approximately $800,000 in fraudulent tax returns.

“The suspect in this case played on the sympathies of good samaritans and took advantage of their willingness to help,” Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor said. “This sentence sends a loud and clear message that fraud of any kind is not tolerated in our city.”

“Although this was a collaborative effort of many agencies, everyone involved shared a single mission to focus on those individuals who involve themselves in tax refund fraud and identity theft. This should be a clear warning for those who engage in this type of criminal activity that the only outcome is lengthy prison terms and large monetary fines,” stated Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee.

Agencies involved in the investigation were the Tampa Police Department, Secret Service, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Temple Terrace Police Department, Clearwater Police Department and the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations Division.

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