An IRS tax compliance officer has been charged with accepting a bribe in exchange for preparing a false audit report for a taxpayer, and stealing another taxpayer's federal income tax refund and economic stimulus check.

Fernando Cruz, of Shady Grove, Ore., was charged with one count of accepting a bribe as a public official and two counts of wire fraud. Earlier this year, he was assigned to audit the joint tax return of a Las Vegas couple. He allegedly accepted $1,000 in cash and assistance in finding an apartment in exchange for performing a favorable audit of the return. 

The fraud charges allege that on March 9, he prepared a 2007 individual tax return for a taxpayer. Without the taxpayer's permission, Cruz allegedly placed his own bank account number and bank-routing number on the return. As a result, the taxpayer's $1,109.29 tax refund and $728 economic stimulus payment were electronically deposited into Cruz's bank account. When the taxpayer asked Cruz why he had not received his refund, Cruz told the taxpayer that he would contact the IRS, even though he did not intend to call the IRS because the money had been deposited into his own bank account.

Cruz was arraigned in federal court on Oct. 31, and pleaded not guilty to the charges. He has been released on bond pending trial, currently scheduled to begin on Dec. 22.

The case is being investigated by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas D. Dickinson.

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