A federal grand jury indicted 10 people at a private investigator's office, charging them with a scheme to obtain confidential information on more than 12,000 citizens across the country, including their tax, medical and employment information, by posing as employees of the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration, doctor's offices and other businesses.
Workers at BNT Investigations in Belfair, Wash., would telephone employees in an attempt to convince them to provide the confidential information. The defendants would call the IRS impersonating a taxpayer and ask for past tax returns, claiming that a bookkeeper was being investigated for embezzlement.
On other occasions they would claim to be a taxpayer in the hospital awaiting surgery, claiming they needed the tax returns to demonstrate to the hospital that they could pay for the services.
Their clients included attorneys, insurance companies and collection agencies looking for the backgrounds and assets of opposing parties, witnesses and benefit claimants.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in the Western District of Washington conducted a yearlong investigation called "Operation Dialing for Dollars" investigating the investigators. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration assisted with the investigation, as did other agencies at the federal and state level.
The 10 defendants are charged with conspiracy and wire fraud. Seven of them are charged with fraudulent elicitation of Social Security Administration information. Six of the defendants are charged with solicitation of federal tax information. All ten defendants are charged with aggravated identity theft.
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