A Westbury man has been charged with leading a crime ring that stole people's identities and used their information to fraudulently collect state and federal tax refunds.
Nassau County prosecutors said Christopher Curry, 40, and his associates stole more than $60,000 by electronically filing more than 30 2011 tax returns using false employer information and inflated or incorrect wages.
Curry filed most of the returns himself electronically or had others carry out the scam and took a percentage of the refunds, prosecutors said.
Many of the tax filers were willing participants, but some were identities stolen from nursing home residents and prisoners, prosecutors said. In many cases, the people named on the refunds had never worked for the employer listed, or the entire W-2 form was a fake, prosecutors said.
Curry has pleaded not guilty to second- and third-degree grand larceny, six counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing and other charges. He faces up to 15 years in prison, prosecutors said.
Curry has been released with no bail but must check in with probation and is due back in court Wednesday.
"This case is an outrageous example of the defendants' limitless greed," Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice said at a news conference Thursday.
Curry's attorney, Greg Grizopoulos of Westbury, said his client has been cooperating with authorities.
"While they are characterizing him as the ringleader, he has been cooperative with the DA's office since the beginning," Grizopoulos said.
The probe resulted in seven arrests, including Curry. Five additional suspects have not yet been arrested, prosecutors said.
The investigation began after a postal inspector noticed that the same people were visiting the Hempstead post office regularly to buy money orders using prepaid debit cards the IRS used to send them their refund money.
Using the money orders made the cash nearly untraceable, prosecutors said. The inspector notified Rice's office, which began its investigation in March 2012, prosecutors said.