Twenty-five people are facing charges stemming from a South Florida take-down aimed at combatting the state's epidemic of identity theft and tax fraud, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The sweep uncovered nearly 14,000 stolen identities used to claim about $36 million in fraudulent tax refunds. The Internal Revenue Service paid out $9.5 million of the fake claims.
Multiple agencies including the FBI and Secret Service, partner on this identity theft and tax fraud "strike force" aimed at Miami, because of the area's reputation as a hotspot for both crimes.
Florida leads the nation in identity theft — with a rate of about 193 complaints per 100,000 residents last year, according to a report by the Federal Trade Commission.
The Miami area fares much worse at 340 complaints per 100,000 residents. Of the 10 U.S. metropolitan areas with the highest rate of identity theft, six are in Florida.
Among those caught in the sweep were a food service manager at Horace Mann Middle school who stole about 400 student identities, a mail carrier who stole information on his route and a corrections officer who stole inmates' personal data.
“The number of stolen identities and the dollar amount of the tax fraud involved in these cases is staggering," United States Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said in a press release. "These cases serve as a reminder that each and every one of us is a potential victim."
Nearly 300 people have been charged for fraud totaling $486 million since the Florida strike force began in August 2012.