Miami College Students Face Felony Records and Prison Time in Fraud Scheme

© Miami Herald Miami Dade College. Miami Herald
© Miami Herald Miami Dade College. Miami Herald

Caleb Fadet, who grew up in a working-class family in North Miami, seemed to be making all the right moves to get ahead in life. 

He graduated with a criminal justice degree from Florida A&M, volunteered as a tutor in the federal AmeriCorps program and earned a scholarship to pursue a vocational degree in funeral sciences at Miami Dade College in 2012.

But Fadet did something really stupid along the way: For a lousy $550 kickback, he let a boyhood friend use his student bank account at MDC to deposit $18,000 in illegally obtained tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service. Federal agents arrested Fadet two years later while he was working at the U.S. Postal Service and applying to join the Army.

On Tuesday, Fadet, 27, will learn his punishment – at best, probation; at worst, up to one year in prison – in Miami federal court. Either way, he will still have a felony record.

“Caleb is a good kid who made a terrible mistake,” his defense attorney, Adam Schwartz, told the Miami Herald. “He had a lapse in judgment, and it’s something that he will have to live with the rest of his life.”

Fadet, who pleaded guilty for his minor role in the fraud scheme, has plenty of classmates from MDC who got caught for committing the same crime. He was among 18 students charged in November with allowing their Higher One bank accounts to be used for depositing ill-gotten IRS tax refunds.

Collectively, the 18 college students – along with three Target store employees named in one case – were accused of using Higher One bank accounts to receive about $500,000 in fraudulent income-tax refunds between 2011 and 2013. The online accounts are managed by traditional banks, such as Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America. In total, the defendants used the stolen IDs of 644 victims while trying to collect $1.9 million in IRS refunds, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Almost all of them have pleaded guilty and received relatively short sentences, from probation up to two years in prison – including a few punished for stealing other people’s names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers to commit tax fraud.

One student, Smith Jean, 23, got more than four years in prison, the harshest sentence so far. That’s because Jean recruited a classmate to let him use her Higher One account, and he was involved in submitting 62 false tax refund claims seeking about $345,000 from the IRS between 2012 and 2013, according to prosecutor Gera Peoples. The classmate, Beatrice Simeon, 22, was sentenced to five years’ probation.

The only defendant to go to trial was Laquisha Q. Johnson, 24, of Opa-Locka, who was convicted in March of receiving three fraudulent tax refunds in her Higher One account – including a deposit of $61,000 illegally obtained in the name of one victim. When bank administrators dissolved her account for security reasons, she was issued a check for the balance: just over $56,000. She spent the money, according to trial evidence.

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Source: Miami Herald | Jay Weaver

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