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State: 'Refund racket leader' sentenced in fraud

Christopher Curry, 40, has been arrested and charged

Christopher Curry, 40, has been arrested and charged as the ringleader of a group that filed false tax statements to get refunds. The bust came after an investigation by the Nassau District Attorney, the Postal Service and police agencies. (April 11, 2013) Credit: NCDA

A Westbury man described as a "refund racket leader" was sentenced to 11/2 to 3 years in prison for filing fake tax returns that netted more than $60,000 in government checks, state tax officials announced Thursday.

Christopher Curry, 40, was sentenced last month after pleading guilty in September to first-degree scheme to defraud and agreeing to pay back $11,708 to the state and $52,774 to the IRS.

He stole the identities of nursing home residents and prisoners to file 2011 tax returns and, in other cases, he offered accomplices a percentage of the refund if they let him use their Social Security numbers, according to state officials and the Nassau County district attorney's office, which prosecuted the case.

The returns were filled with false information, from wages to employers to made-up W2 forms, authorities said.

The refunds were loaded into prepaid debit cards, which functioned as their bank accounts, tax officials said. The cards were then used to purchase money orders, which made the cash almost untraceable, they said.

Authorities launched Operation Refund Racket in 2012 after a postal inspector noticed that the same people were visiting the Hempstead post office regularly to buy money orders with prepaid debit cards.

Nine of Curry's accomplices are in various stages of prosecution, tax officials said.

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