Foreign suspect indicted in UPMC identity-theft tax case

Associated Press


A federal grand jury has indicted a foreign citizen in a conspiracy to file more than 900 phony federal tax returns seeking $2.2 million in refunds by using employee information stolen from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Yoandy Perez Llanes, 31, and at least three others were part of a group who took those phony tax refunds as credits, a service that online filing service Turbo Tax offers customers, known as “monetizing,” U.S. Attorney David Hickton said.

The credits were used to buy smartphones, laptop and tablet computers, video games and other high-end electronics which were “re-shipped” by others, based in Miami, to Venezuelan cities including Maracay and Maracaibo, according to the indictment announced Friday.

Conspirators in Venezuela then sold the devices through online merchants or auction sites, or kept them for personal use.

“The important message here is we’ve identified the conspirators who have profited from the theft of employee information from UPMC,” Hickton said.

Hickton said the scheme was stopped after nearly $1.5 million of the refunds were paid out.

The 21-hospital network, which dominates western Pennsylvania, was hacked in early 2014 and UPMC officials said then it appeared as many as 27,000 of its 62,000 employees were affected.

Hickton wouldn’t say where Llanes lives, and a news release identified him only as a “foreign national residing outside of the United States.”

Court records show a federal judge in Pittsburgh issued an arrest warrant Thursday on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and aggravated identity theft. Wire fraud and money laundering carry up to 20 years in prison each, and conspiracy up to five years. Aggravated identity theft carries a two-year penalty, which must be tacked onto any other sentence a person receives.

The scheme is detailed in the indictment, but Llanes’ precise role in it is not. Hickton declined to elaborate.

The other conspirators are not named. They’re referred to only as “one,” “two” and “three” but the indictment suggests there are an unspecified number of others involved, too.

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