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Friday, May 24, 2024

Florida Man Sentenced for ‘PPP’ Fraud, Identity Theft

A joint investigation has led to a five-year prison sentence for a Florida man on two counts of wire fraud, two counts of aggravated identity theft and one count of theft of government property over $1,000 and ordered to pay $363,099 in restitution.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Jacksonville, Clay County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO), The Florida Highway Patrol – Bureau of Criminal Investigations and Intelligence (FHP) and Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) determined Christopher Leo Daragjati, of Middleburg, Florida, frequently obtained personal identifiable information (PII), including the Social Security numbers of multiple victims, to apply for U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness program, as well as fraudulently file multiple tax returns in different stolen identities.

According to court documents, in July 2022, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation into an unknown individual, later identified as Daragjati, using stolen identities to commit fraud. Daragjati opened up commercial lines of credit with Sunbelt Rentals using the PII of victims. After renting thousands of dollars of equipment from a rental company, he pawned or stole the equipment. Daragjati’s actions caused a felony arrest warrant to be issued for an innocent victim.

“The Clay County Sheriff’s Office takes any attempts to defraud or scheme our citizens’ out of their hard-earned money very seriously,” said Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook. “We appreciate the cooperation that we have with our law enforcement partners to hold these suspects accountable. We will continue to diligently work to identify and arrest any individuals who are engaged in fraud.”

HSI also determined that Daragjati used two fraudulently obtained Florida identification cards to apply for three Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans in the identity of two victims. Unsuspecting lenders approved the three loan applications and Daragjati received approximately $150,000 in PPP loan proceeds.

“Using other people’s identities to scam the tax code and take money you are not entitled to makes you a thief. Period,” said HSI Tallahassee Assistant Special Agent in Charge Nicholas Ingegno. “HSI, alongside all of our law enforcement partners, will diligently seek out those hiding behind stolen identities and stop them from robbing unsuspecting victims of their personal information and financial security.”

The FHP, with assistance from other members of law enforcement, determined that Daragjati fraudulently obtained numerous genuine Florida driver licenses and identification cards.

An investigation by the IRS revealed that Daragjati submitted eight fraudulent federal tax returns using the stolen identities of six victims. The IRS approved one such tax refund causing Daragjati to receive a refund of more than $3,000 in the identity of the victim.

“Today’s sentencing should serve as a warning to identity thieves who prey on taxpayers,” said Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Acting Special Agent In Charge, Lani I Rosado-Espinal. “IRS-CI will thoroughly investigate and bring to justice corrupt actors in order to preserve the integrity of the United States tax system.”

In addition to HSI, IRS-CI, CCSO, and FHP, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, and the United States Secret Service’s Jacksonville field office provided valuable assistance to the investigation. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kevin C. Frein.

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Homeland Security Today
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.
Homeland Security Today
Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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