An Internal Revenue Service employee has been charged with illegally accessing IRS computers to obtain information on taxpayers and filing false tax returns in their names.

Andrea M. Bennett, 41, a contact representative in the IRS’s Indianapolis office, had access to a computer system known as the Integrated Data Retrieval System. The IDRS allows IRS employees to retrieve data from, and make changes to, an individual’s tax account.

All IRS employees’ use of the IDRS is supposed to be limited to the performance of their official duties, but Bennett is charged with accessing the system approximately 285 times between May 22, 2007, and Nov. 27, 2007, for reasons unrelated to her official duties. She allegedly obtained information on 12 individuals to prepare false tax returns in their names. She also allegedly filed six fraudulent 2006 income tax returns in the names of other individuals between June and November 2007.

None of the individuals knew Bennett or that she was filing tax returns in their names. All of the false returns showed an Indianapolis address, even though none of the taxpayers had ever lived there. All of the income and most of the dependent information shown on their tax returns was fictitious, and each of the returns included a Schedule C showing fictitious business income. The false information allowed Bennett to claim the maximum refundable Earned Income Tax Credit.

Each of the six false income tax returns claimed a refund between $2,368 and $2,868. Five of the refunds, totaling $13,813, were actually disbursed by the IRS. The refunds were deposited to an Internet bank account that Bennett had opened in her name. Bennett used the money for her personal use, including cash withdrawals at ATM machines and debit card purchases at restaurants, department stores, drugstores and other businesses.

The bank put a hold on the deposit of one refund when it noticed that the Social Security number did not match Bennett’s. She contacted the bank to ask about the refund and, according to the complaint, claimed the tax refund was for a family member, adding that she had not had any problems making such deposits in the past. She told the bank official that she worked for the IRS and that her supervisor had told her she could do this. The bank official asked Bennett to provide written authorization from her supervisor. On Nov. 28, 2007, Bennett faxed a letter written on IRS letterhead to the bank stating that she was authorized to allow her five relatives to have their tax refunds deposited into her checking account.

The letter listed the five names and the amounts of the refunds, and ended by saying, “These refunds are not fraudulent.” The letter was purportedly signed by Bennett’s supervisor, but in fact, the letter was prepared by Bennett and the supervisor’s signature was forged, according to the complaint. Bennett faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. The case was investigated by the IRS’s Criminal Investigation Division and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

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