A 27-year-old California man entered a guilty plea on conspiracy to commit wire fraud charges in a federal courtroom in Minneapolis on Oct. 25. Prior to his plea, he stood accused of having convinced multiple individuals in the Twin Cities area to buy Target gift guards for him as a part of a tax scheme.
According to the indictment in the case, the man reached out to victims by phone. He'd identify himself as someone working in collections for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). He'd tell them that they owed money and were facing arrest. On his messages, he'd leave a number for them to call him back.
In one instance, he reportedly spoke with an Iowa woman and told her she had an outstanding debt of $4,058 from 2013. He said that her arrest was imminent if she didn't pay. She quickly purchased three Target gift cards, each of which she loaded with $2,000 and turned them over to him.
Soon after turning those cards over to him, he told her that she'd need to purchase another $2,000 card to make the arrest warrant on her record go away. She obliged.
Police were able to pull surveillance footage later that same day from the Target store, located on University Avenue in St. Paul. It reportedly showed the defendant buying $2,000 in prepaid Steam and Google Play cards using one of those Target cards.
In another instance on June 8, police say that they viewed footage of the man redeeming the additional gift card at a Blaine Target store. He attempted to do the same at an Andover one before his arrest. That's when they swooped in and took him into custody. When they did, they found several hundred gift cards valued at tens of thousands of dollars on him.
Prosecutors have agreed to recommend a prison term of up to 2.5 years followed by three years of supervised release and a payment of $220,000 in restitution. The defendant will remain incarcerated until his sentencing on Feb. 27 next year.
If you are charged with fraud, you could be facing a long prison sentence and restitution. You'll want to have a Minneapolis federal crimes attorney who has a proven track record of success on your side.