A new task force marks a huge turnaround in tackling the Tampa Bay area's tax refund fraud epidemic. It's the first time the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office, the IRS, and the FBI have ever worked this closely together on tax refund investigations.
Tampa is number one in the nation for the crime that is swindling people everywhere out of their refunds.
"We had over 1,500 cases last year of reported cases of tax fraud," said Hillsborough Sheriff's Corporal Bruce Crumpler, a supervisor on the task force.
The task force formed in October. The cooperation it brings cuts mounds of red tape and means a faster path to prosecution in tax refund cases. Last week, investigators had a warrant and started searching a woman's home, a mere five hours after getting a call that her 6-year-old daughter came to school with a bag of 52 credit cards. Crumpler credits the fast action to the new partnership with the IRS.
"They're on one side of the room and we're on the other side of the room. If we have a question and we need something done, our detectives don't have to pick the phone up and call anyone. They turn around and ask the IRS agent 'hey, we need this. We need that,'" Crumpler explained.
Two IRS agents are on the task force, as well as an FBI agent, four Hillsborough detectives, an analyst, and a supervisor. IRS Special Agent Casimir Tyska says the relationship will grow even further in the future.
"Approximately 25 to 31 local enforcement officers will be deputized to assist the IRS in some of the federal investigations," Tyska said.
Crumpler says the task force will be necessary for as long as the crime of tax refund fraud continues. He expects that to be a long time.
"We are very, very busy," said Crumpler. "I could probably use 12 to 15 guys back here on a daily basis and still have plenty of work for everybody."
The number of cases the task force is investigating has skyrocketed since the start of tax filing season.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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