Sheriff: Tax preparer stole identities, cashed hundreds of fraudulent returns


 Name: DEBBIE JEAN COOPER 
 Charge:  CREATE POSS USE REAL OR FICTITIOUS PERSONAL ID INFO
 Residence: MIAMI GRDNS, FL 33169 
 Age: 53
 Occupation: TAX PREPARER 
 Case #: Not yet available

 Follow this case online:  http://www.collierclerk.com/RecordsSearch/CourtRecords
Please note: Most cases require 2-3 days to be inputted into the public court record.
This gallery is compiled by the Naples Daily News staff from written reports by Naples police, Collier Sheriff‘s Office, Marco police and other agencies.  Arrests indicate suspicion of crime, not guilt.  To report a crime or suspicious activity in your neighborhood, call the Naples Police and Fire Department at 213-4844, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office at 774-4434 or the Marco Island Police Department at 389-5050.

CCSO


  • Name: DEBBIE JEAN COOPER
  • Charge: CREATE POSS USE REAL OR FICTITIOUS PERSONAL ID INFO
  • Residence: MIAMI GRDNS, FL 33169
  • Age: 53
  • Occupation: TAX PREPARER
  • Case #: Not yet available

Follow this case online: http://www.collierclerk.com/RecordsSearch/CourtRecords
Please note: Most cases require 2-3 days to be inputted into the public court record.
This gallery is compiled by the Naples Daily News staff from written reports by Naples police, Collier Sheriff‘s Office, Marco police and other agencies. Arrests indicate suspicion of crime, not guilt. To report a crime or suspicious activity in your neighborhood, call the Naples Police and Fire Department at 213-4844, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office at 774-4434 or the Marco Island Police Department at 389-5050.

Video from NBC-2

Due to meet with a judge at the Lee County courthouse about her fraud and drug charges, Debbie Jean Cooper raced up Alligator Alley on Wednesday, still 54 miles from her exit with only an hour left.

A Collier County deputy clocked the 2006 white Lexus at 115 mph and pulled Cooper over around 12:30 p.m. When he asked to search the car, he found checks, federal information worksheets, tax return credit cards and a piece of paper with 13 handwritten names, birthdays and Social Security numbers.

Cooper, 53, a tax preparer from Miami Gardens, was booked into the Collier County jail, accused of stealing the identities of hundreds of Floridians and cashing in on their fraudulent tax returns, Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said Thursday.

She faces eight counts of identity theft, though investigators expect to file more charges.

After her arrest, investigators identified at least 278 of Cooper's potential victims, though there could be as many as 300 more, Rambosk said. Among the potential victims are special needs patients in a Miami facility whose names, birthdays and Social Security numbers were found on a list in Cooper's Lexus.

"We're seeing this as a rapidly increasing problem within the last week," Rambosk said of the tax fraud cases.

About 150 cases were reported to the Sheriff's Office this week, bringing the total to 452 this year, Rambosk said.

Rambosk said it was not immediately clear how Cooper obtained the identities. Only one of the eight known victims had used Triangle Tax Services, the business where Cooper worked as a tax preparer, said Lt. Chad Parker, who works in the economic crimes unit.

"You would think that would be the link, and it probably is to some degree, but there are other ways to find that information," Rambosk said, noting that Social Security numbers can be fraudulently purchased from businesses that keep that data.

Rambosk said Cooper's arrest was the first this year for his department involving cases fraudulent tax returns, which are typically hard to prosecute. The IRS had been notified and is investigating.

Investigators did not yet know Thursday much money Cooper is accused of stealing.

Cooper did not make it to the Lee courthouse Wednesday, where she had a 1:30 p.m. case management conference stemming from December charges of identity theft, possession of fake ID, drug possession and fraudulent use of credit cards. Details of that case were not available Thursday.

Rambosk said it was "critically important" for people to be aware of the tax return frauds, encouraging citizens to protect their Social Security numbers, run credit reports every few months and avoid giving personal information over the phone.

But in the last few days before the end of tax season, Rambosk predicted the identity thefts would continue.

"A lot of people wait to file," he said. "We're going to see a lot more."

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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