February 14, 2019
Florida Man Fights To Keep Last $809 After IRS Seizes Bogus $980,000 Tax Refund

Ramon Christopher Blanchett of Tampa Bay just said goodbye to $919,251 and his new Lexus after the IRS seized the assets after claiming $1 million in federal income tax withholdings on his annual income of about $20,000, The Tampa Bay Times reports.

According to a criminal complaint just filed in Tampa, Blanchett is accused of falsely representing $1 million in withholdings and then claiming a staggering income tax return of $980,000. During tax season in 2017, the enterprising tax preparer listed his occupation as "free-lancer" and submitted two W-2 forms: one from an area nursing home and one from Sizzling Platter, a restaurant in Utah.

One W-2 accurately reported $1,399 in earnings with no federal withholdings. The other claimed another $17,098 in earnings, plus an eye-popping $1 million in federal withholdings. In fact, that work had paid just over $2,000 with no taxes withheld.

By Blanchett's accounting, his tax return would net him a healthy, to put it mildly, federal tax refund of $980,000, presuming that the IRS had precautions in place to double-check near million-dollar refunds claimed on $20,000 in income.

Apparently, in Blanchett's case anyway, the IRS did not.

"Based on Blanchett's submission of the [return], falsely representing that $1 million in taxes had been withheld, the U.S. Treasury issued checked number 4038088544305, made payable to Blanchett, for $980,000,'' the complaint says.

Blanchett deposited the money into a pair of accounts at SunTrust, where it turns out they do look twice at suspiciously large amounts of money. The bank immediately froze the accounts for suspected fraud and issued Blanchett a cashier's check for the full amount so that he might take his business elsewhere.

That he did.

Blanchett, opened a money market account at a credit union, this time taking the precaution to claim the money had been inherited from a deceased family member. He deposited the funds in multiple accounts and withdrew just over $49,000 to purchase a Lexus luxury coupe.

It was at this point that the IRS figured out what was going on. They came for Blanchett. And his money. And his Lexus.

After seizing the car and the remaining $919,251 still in the accounts, Blanchett was ultimately left with $809 -- the amount his insurance company refunded him after he canceled the policy when the car was repossessed.

An additional hearing is pending to resolve the last $809, which is being considered proceeds of wire fraud in connection with the other charges. At this time, Blanchett has not been charged with a federal crime. He has yet to comment on the events.