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Long IslandSuffolk

Michael Figat sentenced to more than 6 years in false tax return scam

Michael Figat, 36, of Shirley, was sentenced to

Michael Figat, 36, of Shirley, was sentenced to 6½ years in federal prison Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, for his role in a $16 million scam to file bogus income tax returns Credit: Ed Betz

A Shirley man was sentenced to 6½ years in federal prison Tuesday for his role in a $16 million scam to file bogus income tax returns by using information stolen from Puerto Rico residents and then pocketing the refunds.

Michael Figat, 36, made $288,000 off the scheme, prosecutor Christopher Caffarone said in court. The scheme took in $16 million by using a section of the federal income tax code exempting Puerto Rican citizens from paying taxes on money earned on the island commonwealth, Caffarone said.

Figat's lawyer, Joseph Ferrante, of Hauppauge, argued in federal court in Central Islip that his client should get a lesser sentence because he made a fraction of the money Caffarone said was lost in the scheme.

For his part, Figat told U.S. District Court Judge Sandra J. Feuerstein he blamed his actions on "a matter of greed -- blinded by greed" and said he was prepared for whatever sentence she handed down.

Feuerstein said she understood his remorse but there are "a range of schemes to cheat the government all over. . . . A message has to be sent."

Federal prosecutors said the multimillion-dollar tax fraud case involved identity theft, corrupt postal workers and check-cashing employees.

Figat pleaded guilty in April 2013 to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and theft of government funds. His identity-theft scheme involved getting the names and Social Security numbers of people living in Puerto Rico, according to court papers and officials. Figat and others filed federal income tax returns with requests for refunds in those persons' names to be sent to Long Island addresses. A postal carrier working with the ring would intercept the refund check when it was delivered to the unwitting residents, officials said.

With Gary Dymski

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