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DA: 2 charged in ID theft tax-return scam

Cynthia Sibert (left) and Susan Pemberton (right) were

Cynthia Sibert (left) and Susan Pemberton (right) were indicted on charges of grand larceny and scheme to defraud, prosecutors said.

Two Nassau County women have been indicted on charges that they used phony Craigslist job and apartment ads to steal hundreds of people's identities nationwide, taking about $75,000 by filing fraudulent tax returns and applying for bank loans and credit cards.

Susan Pemberton, 42, of Rockville Centre, and Cynthia Sibert, 22, of Roslyn, were indicted Tuesday on charges of grand larceny and scheme to defraud, prosecutors said Thursday.

Pemberton, arrested Nov. 16, faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted; Sibert, arrested Nov. 18, faces up to 7 years in prison if convicted, prosecutors said. Both defendants will be arraigned later this month, prosecutors said.

The investigation is ongoing and more charges could be filed against the defendants, authorities said. Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice said her office has contacted more than 250 victims of the scam nationwide.

Victims who tried to file New York State tax returns after the women stole their identities often had their returns rejected because the defendants had already collected a refund in their name, prosecutors said. Out-of-state victims have reported that their credit scores were hurt by the scam, prosecutors said.

"These scammers preyed on the elderly and people who were looking for honest work and affordable housing, and then stole money from the pockets of every taxpayer," Rice said.

Lawyers for the women could not be reached for comment.

The women used the personal information to file more than 250 fraudulent tax returns and to obtain bank loans and credit cards in their victims' names, prosecutors said. Sibert also used her job as a home health care aide to steal the identities of elderly people in her care, then opened credit cards in their names, prosecutors said.

When investigators searched the defendants' homes and rental mailboxes, they found several computers, hundreds of documents, and notebooks with detailed records of the victims' personal information and tax refund amounts, prosecutors said.

Some entries were marked "BIG FAT REFUND," authorities said. There were also credit cards and checkbooks in names other than the defendants', as well as records for credit card purchases of luxury goods, like Gucci baby shoes, prosecutors said.

The investigation started in early 2011 when the Buffalo office of the state Department of Taxation and Finance discovered that hundreds of tax refunds were all being sent to more than 10 Nassau County addresses, including a rented mailbox in Great Neck that was identified on returns as an "apartment."

The tax department worked with Rice and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service on the case, prosecutors said.

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