Tax fraud legislation awaits Scott’s signature
Legislation that would make it easier to arrest identity thieves is headed to the governor’s desk after the state House of Representatives on Thursday unanimously approved the Senate’s amended version of the bill. The legislation, proposed in response to the stolen identity tax refund fraud that has become an epidemic in the Tampa area, has received unanimous favorable votes at every step of the process in both chambers of the Legislature. The bill will make it easier for authorities to bring charges against those found in possession of other people’s identification information, such as Social Security numbers. State prosecutors had been reluctant to bring charges without proof that the information had been used to commit fraud, but the legislation removes the legal requirement of proof of fraudulent intent. “It’s one of those great pieces of legislation that’s much needed and it’s going to be a way to reduce identity theft across the state,” said House sponsor Larry Ahern, R-Seminole.The measure was sponsored in the Senate by Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa. Ahern said he hopes to have Scott come to the Tampa area to sign the legislation, with Joyner and local law enforcement present for the ceremony. Joyner filed her bill following a joint investigation by The Tampa Tribune and News Channel 8 into problems law enforcement has had bringing charges against suspects found with ledgers and medical records with other people’s names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers. Ahern filed his bill in response to a request from Clearwater police, who were dealing with the same issue.